MLS will decide expansion plans by end of season
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Major League Soccer will announce within three months whether the league plans to expand for the 2003 season.
MLS commissioner Don Garber, in his state-of-the-league address before Saturday's All-Star game, said the league is meeting with investors from 10 potential sites for expansion. A decision will be made by Oct. 21, the date of the MLS Cup championship match.
The areas under consideration are Milwaukee; Philadelphia; Rochester, New York; Atlanta; Louisville, Kentucky; Houston; St. Louis; Seattle; New York City; and the Carolinas.
"There's no question that we need to expand our national footprint for television and for media support," Garber said. "However, we will only expand when important criteria have been met."
Garber said any successful expansion bid will contain three elements: plans for a soccer-specific stadium; investors "devoted to the sport for the long term;" and a market with a history of supporting soccer "both professionally and on the grass-roots level."
It hasn't been decided whether one, two or more teams could be added to the money-losing league, which won a class-action antitrust lawsuit in December. Currently in its sixth season, MLS has 12 teams.
Its national television contracts with ABC, ESPN and Telemundo expire this season, but Garber said the league is in discussions with its current broadcasters and other television outlets. The league's television plans will be announced in the next 90 days.
MLS' television ratings have remained mostly steady this season in an age of shrinking numbers for nearly all sports, and league-wide attendance at matches is up this season for the first time in several years.
In other news before the league's All-Stars gathered for a banquet Friday afternoon in San Jose, deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis said MLS likely will play a limited schedule next season during the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. The league followed a similar plan in 1998.