On Tuesday afternoon, from the New York headquarters of Univision, Commissioner Don Garber sat with a roundtable panel of former players, journalists, and broadcasters to discuss where MLS stands and where it's going. The roundtable featured questions from play-by-play Univision commentator Jorge Perez-Navarro, former MLS goalkeeper and SiriusXM host Tony Meola, Canadian international and RDS commentator Patrick Leduc, ESPN writer Doug McIntyre, Fox Sports broadcaster Rob Stone and MLS Social Media Director Amanda Vandervort, who acted as stand-in for fan questions submitted online.
The format for this year's iteration took a bit of a turn from the 2013 version which featured an audience assembled of invited media, fans, and Google Hangout participants lobbing questions at the Commissioner. Instead, the panel solicited questions from fans over the last couple days from avenues like Twitter. This didn't necessarily mean that questions were "soft" as Garber was several times at the end of very difficult questions. But first, Garber took a moment to deliver prepared remarks and announce the MLS Best XI. Here are the highlights from today's address:
So far, television partners have seen an increase in playoff ratings. A special thanks was sent to Thierry Henry and confirmed that he would leave the league altogether (prior to this, there was only confirmation of leaving New York). Expansion markets are being assessed by committee and big announcements regarding when and where should be made in mid-2015. Flex scheduling with TV partners will allow for more narrative-driven matches to replace irrelevant one in the latter half of the year. "Decision Day" will allow for a final day of dramatic, simultaneous matches similar to what is seen in EPL. If scheduling does not permit, Garber would like at least to have in-conference matches take place simultaneously.
Defenders: Bobby Boswell (DCU), Omar Gonzalez (LAG), Chad Marshall (SEA)
With that out of the way, the roundtable began their questions. Here are the highlights:
No decision has been made yet but Garber has expressed the desire to have Cubo play in MLS. Shocking, I know.
The league, management, and player union leadership have begun formal negotiations but are still in the early phases of feeling out respective priorities. After a December meeting, the groups will sit down and begin negotiations in earnest amid what Garber called a "positive dynamic". Though "it's never kumbaya," no one is going into the meetings thinking about a potential work stoppage and both sides are doing well to communicate to one another.
The Commissioner cited discussions with the players that MLS is not financially operating in the way they would like as a way for players to recognize how the league works and come to a middleground (though, this should be taken with a grain of salt. In CBA negotiations, the league and ownership will often downplay revenue in order to gain a better negotiating position. See Forbes' profit analysis of MLS clubs which, in 2013, found the majority of teams operating in the black).