Today Don Garber the commissioner of Major League Soccer took to facebook to answer some questions from fans, and while he seemed to ignore my main question:
How are MLS teams supposed to improve year to year when the salary cap goes up less than 5% each year but the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) mandates minimum raises for players of 5-15%?
Which was posted by myself and several others during the chat (thanks folks). He did take on a couple of tougher questions, and while I give him and the leadership of the league plenty of heat, the reality is that MLS wouldn't be where it is without him and the hard work he has done. Nice to see him using a format that just a couple years ago he thought would die off since it "didn't have a revenue stream", anyhow here are the questions he answered:
Will the smart soccer make the MLS a better league yes or no?
@Brian Antonio Calderon: adidas micoach is a terrific technology and will allow our players, coaches and technical directors to have valuable real-time performance data - power, speed, heart rate, etc.
Then he took on a question that a couple people asked, but I couldn't find the person he addressed in the chain of questions:
@Marc Oberholtzer - NYC remains our top priority for our 20th team. We are still having discussions in Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis and some other markets. The Cosmos have decided to play in the second division, NASL. That's a good decision for them now, in that our NY opportunity won't happen for a few years.
what is being done in struggling markets to reinvigorate them (Columbus, Colorado, Dallas), and why is San Jose not talking about their stadium much?
@David Vitek The League has a very active Club Services group that works closely with all of our clubs to share best practices and support their sales and marketing efforts. We are making progress in almost all markets, including in Dallas where we expect a sell-out for this weekend's game vs. LA
Will MLS be utilizing the goal line technology recently approved by FIFA?
@Tony Rossi I have stated in the past that we are very interested in seeing if we can include goal line technology in our stadiums. The project is just recently approved by FIFA, so we still have lots of work to do on logistics, budgets/pricing and other issues before we can take it forward.
A bunch more questions after the jump
what improvement do you see in the following fields: marketing, advertising, promotion?
@Josh Biringer We are making some real commitments in this area- - we've just hired a new chief marketing officer to focus on a wide variety of initiatives to first better understand our fan base and then create programs to target specific demographic groups to hopefully get them more engaged in MLS and our Clubs. You might have seen this article on ESPN.com that outlines some of our thinking... http://espn.go.com/sports/soccer/story/_/id/8194367/mls-hopes-build-national-profile-roger-bennett
Any word on DC United getting a much needed stadium, they have the most titles in the league and the worst stadium
@Greg Hall - First let me first say that we are really excited about Jason Levien and Erik Thohir joining Will Chang as new owners for DC United. Kevin Payne, Jason and Will recently had a very productive meeting with the Mayor Gray and we hope we can count on him to be supportive of our need for a new stadium...
When will the New England revoultion get there soccer-specific stadium?
@Michal Wos The Kraft family have been working for some time on trying to secure public support for a soccer specific stadium located closer to the urban core in Boston. These projects are extremely difficult - - particularly in big cities. We have great faith in the Krafts and their commitment to MLS and the Revs, so I continue to hold out hope that something can get done.
How do you and SUM view the change in media for measuring MLS success considering the fan-base is so young and technologically educated. Do you know how MLS website and team websites do in comparison to other professional sports leagues in America in terms of visits, views, impressions, etc?
@Tim Smith We are really proud of both the quality and growing audience on MLSsoccer.com. The League has a separate digital office in Manhattan that has almost 50 staffers. They are all really soccer folks and are incredibly experienced in this "space." We have also created the SUM Digital Properties group, that aggregates the traffic of a number of key soccer sites (Yahoo Soccer, US Soccer, Goal.com) and allows us to both generate revenue and expand our audience. We clearly have fewer views than the other major leagues, but traffic is really growing.
What's of bigger importance to you? Allowing inappropriate language from fans deemed to be part of the 18-35 male demographic, or risk alienating and possibly losing those fans by banning said language at matches to provide an atmosphere for kids & families?
@Edgar Nunez I am really glad someone asked this question... Let me start by saying that I grew up in Queens. This isn't about my own personal views. It's about what's appropriate for our in-stadium and television audience. As far as YSA goes, I personally think the cheer is sophomoric and not at all creative. We need to end it. I'd like to think that our supporters can figure out a way to do it on their own so the League doesn't have to step in..
Mr Garber... when will the MLS get good officiating and referees?
@Trey Madara - Trey - I sat in a US Soccer meeting yesterday and had Sunil Gulati say that he believes our officiating is far better than the public gives us credit for. Soccer fans around the world complain about officiating. And it's fair to say that there has been bad calls at the highest level of the game. We created the Professional Referees Organization in conjunction with US Soccer to better train, assess and assign referees. The GM is Peter Waldron, a guy who officiated his last season last year in the EPL. I am convinced that we will continue to make improvements in this area.
Where do you think the league will be in 10 years as far as talent goes? Do you think the MLS will be up as close as the the big 4 leagues in Europe?
@Jordan Garahana - Our goal is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world by 2022. We will measure our success by the quality of the play in the league, the passion of our fans, the cultural relevance of our clubs and the value of our enterprise. We just finished an MLS Board of Governors meeting and started the meeting (like we do every meeting at the League) with a statement of this vision.
Will MLS change its schedule from march to October to august until May like Europe? I think that is a big part of why younger players cannot come to the MLS
@Filippo Ferrara I can't tell you enough how much time we think about our season schedule. There are so many factors that affect this issue - - weather, available broadcast windows, stadium availability, FIFA dates, the Concacaf Champions League and the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, just to name a few.
Mr. Garber....what can be done to balance the "financial power" that teams like LA and NY have over smaller market teams llike Colorado, Columbus, and Salt Lake?
@Sven Offerson - Come on Sven! 9 different teams have lifted the championship trophy since the league began in '96. Including Kansas City, Salt Lake, Columbus and Colorado!!!
is there a good chance of relegation/promotion between MLS and NASL in the future.
@Joey Barnes Joey- I really believe at some point MLS will have a closer relationship with the lower divisions. We are investing significant funds in our reserve league and academy programs and are looking for ways to ensure that we are effective in developing players as best we can.
Do you think your sensitivity to cursing has something to do with your extraordinarily large ears?
@Lorae Hottle maybe!
Is there a chance the salary cap will be raised for the 2013 year?
@Hector Lewis - Yes, it is part of our collective bargaining agreement. But remember, there's lots more invested in players than what is allocated to the salary budget. From academy programs, the reserve league, Generation Adidas, designated players, etc.
Ok i have a few things to say i am a huge MLS fan but there are a few things that needs to change or improve such as MLS already has a contract with ESPN to show a prime-time game on Thursday, but other than Spanish network television.
NBA TV, NFL Network, even the Yankees have their own stations. If MLS could start its own TV network and (in the beginning) sell some games to national TV stations, it would well be on it's way to becoming a top league in the USA.
I would be nice to have a MLS Show
Nick - While we are probably not yet ready to roll out an MLS vertical channel, we have been producing a lot of video programming that available on MLSsoccer.com and KICK TV. You really should check out www.youtube.com/kicktv to see what we are doing in this area.
Here is another answer to a question I don't find in the timeline, so not sure if they were sending him messages or not:
@Mike Juell We think we have the most competitive all star game format in pro sports. I do expect us to continue with the concept. Be sure to tune in to ESPN2 at 830 pm est to catch the game. And stick around for Halftime... I will be interviewed by Max, Alexi and Kasey.
Mr. Garber. I feel that having new soccer specific stadiums being built with a turf surface rather than natural grass is a detriment to the league, the game, and the longevity of the players. Do you foresee a future where all MLS teams are required to have a natural grass field?
@Mark Parker - Artificial turf continues to improve. While everyone would prefer that every game be played on grass, it's a practical reality that playing on turf will continue to be part of the game. Remember, World Cup qualifiers are played on artificial turf in many countries around the world.
Don, how is the league assisting teams - namely Sporting KC - secure jersey sponsors? We've been waiting for a sponsor announcement for ages in Kansas City. What's the status on that?
@Isaac Knopf - Our SUM staff regularly assists our clubs with jersey sponsor sales. We are very proud of our newest sponsor in Dallas, Advocare!
Mr.Garber we are still waiting for an explanation on how Brek Shea gets triple the ban that Beckham got for the exact same act.
@Ryan Whitehead - The MLS DC viewed the incident with Brek as more egregious. They did not view the act as the same in that one involved a referee and the other did not. I can assure you that the committee is required to make decisions based on their interpretation (and video review) of the facts of an incident, without regard for who the player is...
Would you consider decreasing the number of games per season, so we don't have so many games crammed into the season? It seems like a 30 game season might work. Teams in the CCL would certainly benefit.
@Vince Man That certainly seems to be an easy solution. But in actuality, we still have a shorter schedule than most leagues around the world. It also would have a significant impact on our economics.
Mr. Garber, when will San Antonio, Texas get an MLS team? Either from expansion or relocation!
@Fern Gully - We are not at all considering relocating any MLS teams.... I am very impressed by the fan support for the Scorpions. It's a great story for soccer in America.
@Mr. Garber How would you assess until now Montreal's participation in the MLS? What about ownership? From A+ to F what mark would you give the franchise?
@Gabriel Sabin - Joey Saputo and his team have done a terrific job so far this year. They currently are second in the League in attendance and have had two of the largest stand-alone games in our history. I attended both their first match at the Olympic Stadium and at Stade Saputo and believe they are off to a great start!
That was the last of the questions as Don offered up this final comment:
Gotta go folks. Off to PPL Park to begin the AT&T MLS All Star festivities. Thanks again for your support and I will try to engage in another social media chat soon. I also want to congratulate the US Women's National Team for a great victory against France. Tune in to tonight's match on ESPN2, Telefutura, or TSN and RDS in Canada. And let's hope our guys have a good match against Chelsea!
So first while the chat got off to a late start, I was very impressed that Don spent so much time answering questions and while some of the questions lack specifics that I think fans would appreciate, it still is fairly impressive that the man on a very busy and high profile day took almost an hour to interact with fans.
I would still love to see the mainstream media folks who interview Don bring up some of these questions, while he didn't address all the questions, he also didn't avoid some tough questions. Too often it seems he is interviewed by the same people who ask a lot of the same questions, it was a fresh change to see him deal with the fans this way. I did find myself laughing at lot of the questions, where the answers are either well know or the question is just kinda out there somewhere, but overall I have to give the man credit for dealing with it.
What question would you like to have seen Don answer?
OFF MY SOAPBOX