So a couple weeks ago I had a chance to sit down for a one on one with RSL's President and all around great guy Bill Manning, we talked about a number of topics but in this first part of my interview with him, we looked at league wide issues and questions.
With new teams entering the league, a new playoff system, how do you see the progress of the league?
Very Positive, I reflect back to my first position with the league when I was working for a league owned team, in a 70,000 seat stadium, league was struggling, contracting teams, and 10 years later and it is a completely different ball game. The league did what it had to do back then, to retrench and then made some smart decisions in how they branched out and I think they have been very smart about the teams they have had come into the league, how structured they are and set up to succeed. Especially with the new markets like Toronto, Seattle and now Portland and Vancouver, I think the league is doing a very good job locally. I think our next step as a league for me, will be nationally with TV our ratings are still "what they are" they aren't knocking anyone's socks off.
I mention that it really averages out to about a quarter of a million people on ESPN2,
Bill refocuses that locally the teams have become more relevant, coming into the league as an expansion team is different now. I wish that Real Salt Lake, if we had a chance to do it over again we would do it differently. I enthusiastic about where the league is now, and the steps that have been made over the last 3-4 years we have gone to another level.
After the jump, we talk expansion, NY2, and does MLS go beyond 20 teams?
So next up I ask about the future expansion, New York 2 losing some prestige as team 20 and how it opens up other cities looking to get a team. Also what did he think about expansion beyond 20 teams?
As a native New Yorker, I would love to see it in New York. Coming from New York, I think a team in Queens would do fabulous; it would be great for this league and give another rivalry for the Red Bulls.
With all that said, there are so many different factors that go into. Speaking of Don, I think his preference is to have the 20th team in New York but Don's not dumb and neither is our board of Governors. So I think they will take what will be the best deal for the league and with the recent success of expansion teams they will make sure it is a good ownership group, the infrastructure is there and the expansion fees are going to be an interesting topic as well. Now the league is much more relevant and teams are doing well, so I am sure you will see those continue to be a point of discussion when considering about who will come in. I think it is a big decision but I think Don and Mark Abbott will make the right decision for the league and if that isn't New York, we have seen other cities come in that could add relevance to the league.
We also have 4 time zones, when you talk to some of the Europeans who come over to play, everyone talks about us going to the world schedule, we have snow, we have different time of the year here and when teams travel here it's not like you are making a one hour trip in England. You are hoping on a flight, we still don't fly charter yet, there are sometimes there are connections involved, it is not easy. Travel in this country especially when compared to the other countries in Europe, they don't get it and when they come here and play they are shocked by the travel involved. I think the size of our country allows for more expansion, because we are much, much bigger than the other countries are in the rest of the world, so I am sometimes of the bent that a group of people in this country who want us to be exactly like it is in Europe.
Here is some of the best stuff from this interview, I know it won't sit well with some but to me this is something all those who are cynics and critics of MLS need to read and pay close attention to:
Yes, Europe does a lot of things well, but we do a lot of things well in this country as we have proven in sports, I don't think we have to exactly take that model. We can take the model on how they play the game, but tweak it to what fits for America, for the United States , and the thing I always say is that the one they don't have over there is the NFL, the NBA, they don't have Major League Baseball. We have people in this league, on the technical side, who think we should just put our heads in the sand and pretend that there isn't Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA, I think that would be foolish.
I think further expansion for the league down the road will be a good thing, once we have solidified in each market. That is what is Don has said, after the 20th team to take a look at where we are, but certainly if we are solidified in each market, there will be more opportunity.
Well there you go, some honest answers about how one President of a MLS team sees the current state and future of the league.
Tomorrow morning I will post the rest of this interview, where we talk about Real Salt Lake as an organization, a team and how CONCACAF Champions League impact both of them.
OFF MY SOAPBOX