So this post features one item where I support the league, and one where I am left scratching my head.
The first is the current situation with DC United, every couple of months a supposed stadium deal comes and goes and still the storied franchise is left without a stadium worthy of their legacy, their fans, and their future. Even at RFK where the conditions are comical, you know when the Comish mentions the raccoons in the locker rooms during the state of the league address that we have reached a moment where something has to give. DC United worked without an actual contract with RFK last year and don't have one at this moment as they are planning for the 2012 season.
The option of moving this team seems like one that should be avoided at all costs and it has been for the last 5 years, but reality is that it is time for the future of this team to move forward and for me that means if there is no stadium deal done in the off season that DC United look for a new city for the 2013 season. It is hard enough to attract fans and top talent to MLS but when almost all the other clubs can offer state of the art stadiums and equipment, DC as a franchise deserve better. I don't know if it is Baltimore, which would seem logical, but it is hard to imagine any situation being worse than what they are in. The league is looking to do what they can to help with either option, but something needs to be done and I support the league saying if there is no deal in DC, then the team needs to move.
after the jump we look at Don's obsession with NY2 and some general expansion thoughts:
OK, back to a thing that I have some issues with, the bizarre obsession with putting another team in New York, I could almost understand it when the Cosmos name was involved, but during the call I thought two interesting things came up about NY2. First was despite the financial collapse of the reborn Cosmos and their lawsuit for breach of contract with a youth program, Don said the new people involved could still be one of the potential ownership groups in New York. Now that doesn't surprise me but the tarnish of the last year will be hard for that group to shake (just like the Wilpon's).
Perhaps the thing that was more disturbing to me was that MLS has a full time person working on a New York stadium location. There is no ownership group but MLS is spending money to look at plans for a stadium and trying to figure out how to get public funding (at least partial public funding) for a stadium that doesn't have an ownership group or team yet. Now I am sure there are lots of business people in New York who would jump on getting involved if you could hand them a stadium deal already done, but why is it that MLS would dedicate these types of resources and energy for a market without a local ownership group already in place?
So when I hear about a guy who wants to build a personally financed $1 billion dollar stadium project in Las Vegas (or Henderson) that is already getting zoning approvals, why isn't MLS out there helping him get team #20? Seems a lot more legit than spending money on trying to get a stadium built where there isn't a current ownership group involved? What about Orlando City? The team that Don didn't mention during the call but was at MLSHQ for meetings last week? They have a successful USL side, several options on stadium, why isn't MLS dedicating a full time person to help their bid?
I am sorry, but I would think it would be a much wiser budget choice to help promote the current team in New York fill their $200 million plus stadium, than to try and build a competing product in the same market? I am left wondering what the obsession is for Don Garber with putting another team in New York? It has to be mighty strong for them to be considering a location that would require a ferry to access one of the site, really people won't cross the river to Red Bull Arena and you want to make fans take a ferry to a stadium?
The personal level of bias that is being demonstrated is one of the many things that scares me about the leadership of Don Garber, when he gets an idea that he likes he tends to hold on long after he should. I don't see his single minded approach on this matter to be one that helps the league.
I mean in one breath he rambles on about NY2, then he counters his point by saying that he thinks the model of converting existing NASL/USL teams is the way to go as he cites the success of Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and next year's NKOB Montreal. So which is it? It is clear that with MLS being a single entity that the opportunities for personal preferences to take place of thought out decisions is not only capable of happening but in this case it clearly seems to be the case.
I think MLS should simply allow the first valid offer for team 20 to be accepted, it should require a SSS, an ownership group dedicated to the sport, and then it should get the full support of the league. I know that it is easy to build on an existing team, but I think the success on and off the pitch of the Philadelphia Union, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC show that you don't have to have a big USL club to build on. If that happens to be Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, Detroit, or even New York, then fine but for the league to be playing favorites is something I think is very unprofessional.
A final thought on expansion, I do think MLS should stop at 20 teams. Perhaps not forever but for at least 4-5 years during which the possible relocation of teams that are struggling could be reviewed, we know that DC United has some issues finding a stadium, there are many issues in Columbus, and who knows maybe even Chivas USA should be looking for a fresh start? Growth for the sake of growth isn't always a good thing and MLS has been very lucky that since they started this current expansion round back in 2005 that there have been a lot of success stories, but expecting that to be the case every time as we move forward is a foolish position.
OK, there you have the 3rd part of my look at the "State of the League" address.
OFF MY SOAPBOX