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MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 16, 2007
COMMISSIONER GARBER: This chat will be a little longer than usual. So I hope can you bear with me with that. Not necessarily a lot new to talk about. But we have a lot of detail particularly on expansion. And thought it would be a good idea to go through more detail than we've gone through in the past.
Usually we've had this for 5 to 10 minutes, might be a little bit longer than that. And then afterwards I'll be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
I'd like to welcome everybody to our Nation's Capitol, and MLS Cup weekend, for our Cup in 2007. It is great to be back here in D.C. This is such a fantastic market.
The team has established such a strong brand and has connected in the community in ways that when the league was dominant, we hoped we wouldn't do just here as we do in every market. We go through times of making lots and lots of progress in cities across the country. But D.C. has been doing it really well since the beginning.
I'd like to thank Kevin Payne, and Victor MacFarlane, and Will Chang who are hosting us this weekend, they're very, very active in managing this team, and helping with decisions are really model ownership.
We'll talk about some of the challenges that they're having here, particularly as it relates to their facility. But they're actively had their first board meeting, Victor and Will, and they're really contributing in a terrific way.
Like many other sports events in the country, we have media that participate in events. And in our case, every year that media gets larger and larger. We have fans that are representing both teams from Houston and New England, including a thousand that are in buses on Sunday morning down from New England, which is a great tradition.
It started, actually in Houston when they had a caravan that went from Houston to Dallas. We ended up chartering those buses for their fans. It is really something we hope to see happening as the MLS Cup continues to grow in popularity within the participating teams.
Like a local team we had in New England where we had over 60,000 fans in 2002 who were very committed to this concept of having a game in a destination site. Allowing the board to get together, our broadcasters, our friends and our media, and that is something that we'll continue to do. There are hundreds and hundreds of people making the trip. So it should be a good environment.
In the stadium, we hope to have 40,000 fans at RFK on Sunday morning. It will be the largest MLS Cup attendance since 2002 when the game was played at Gillette.
The fans are spending a little more time. We're actively working with a council of MLS supporters to engage them in our All-Star Game and our Cup, and providing them with special access. And the Deputy Commissioner and I will be meeting with them tomorrow at a cafe in Falls Church.
Anybody who wants to attend that event is welcome to. We sit up on the podium, and we open it up to our fans and basically have an open book to talk about anything they want to talk about. So it is an interesting couple of hours that we spend, and he and I both enjoy it. We encourage you to come.
For the 12th consecutive year, the game will be broadcast live on ABC Sports. It will be the first time in our history that the game will be a live broadcast in Spanish language that will take place on Univision Telefutura.
At the end of our year each year, we have this press conference, and it's an opportunity for us to take some time with our journalists that make the trip down here. I've met with a couple and have given me the opportunity to come down from their hometowns.
And it's a relationship that we have with the media that I would call simbiotic. Attending events this week that was put on the museum of broadcasting, and they brought the commissioners together from the major sports events and mainly sports press.
And one of the questions I was asked from someone at the New York Times, was how do you think you're doing with particularly the traditional press? We talked about our struggles in New York, and the challenges we've had with that team for the last number of years. And if we get into a bigger stadium, we're going to attract a larger fan base and do like we are in Washington, D.C.
I actually called you out, George, and talked about what we have here in Washington, D.C. We have a young editor now who really believes in the team. When we can get into position where we have the media that is engaged in one of our local teams, we are getting the coverage that we believe we deserve, and we're getting the coverage that our fans are asking for.
And as the digital age is becoming more and more a part of where people access their sports information within another job. We have something unique that other leagues do, and I hope it is a tradition that we can continue.
We have three journalists that have attended all three MLS Cups. I look forward to a time when we can give you guys a 20th or 25th anniversary pin. But I want to really recognize Michael Lewis from the Daily News. And Richard Mahoney from Soccer America, and Steven here from The Washington Post. Thank you for your consistency in the sport.
We had a good year. And we'll talk about that good year that we had. It started in the off-season. We've had a lost people ask how do we continue that kind of activity? And I don't know that we can have that kind of activity year in and year out.
It started with the announcement of our designated player rule. And obviously, the signing of David Beckham, we have an announcement of our multi-year agreement with ABC and ESPN, and Univision and FOX. And we headed to Toronto and they went on in the off-season to sell out every game in their first season.
In our view, we talked about it a bit at the board room today, the success we've had in Toronto proves if you have a good market if you have a good ownership group, if you have good solid management, and really are engaging with the soccer fan. Not going after the baseball fan, but going and giving the right environment for a soccer fan, it really is the right formula for success in this sport.
Earlier in the year we opened up two stadiums, Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver, and BMO Field in Toronto. We now in 2007 have two new teams. The Earthquakes in San Jose, the owners had their first meeting there today. They're very active and involved in trying to bring that team back to the prominence it had before we left that area.
Just earlier this week on Monday night football as well as at the Tuesday press conference, we announced our 15th team in Seattle. And Joe Roth who runs Disney Studios, and Adrian Hanauer were both here today and this weekend. And Paul Allen, owner of the Seahawks and the Trailblazers, along with Drew Carey the owners of that team.
And some of you might have read this on the internet, that they've exceeded 5,000 season tickets in Seattle. The tickets have been on sale for three days, and they've just reached 5,000 season tickets. So that is a pretty good story for us.
2007 set an all time record for attendance. The television ratings on ESPN2 grew 25% compared to 2006. Our attendance went up, our television ratings went up, and those are very important in a sports league.
Clearly for us, and all of you know this being around us for so many years, that the crucial driver of our success is the core ownership group that we have this in this league. They keep making deeper and deeper commitments to the sport.
As our ownership group is expanding, the diversity around the table has given us an environment that is really going to help take this league to a new level in this year and many years to come.
2007, we added four new ownership groups in Major League Soccer. It is a far cry from when it was just sitting around the table with three ownership groups three years ago. Will and Victor here in Washington, D.C., Andrew Hauptman in Chicago recently purchased the Chicago Fire, they're here this weekend. And John in San Jose, and obviously the ownership group in Seattle.
So our meetings are a built different today than they have been in the past. And they'll be even more different as we continue to sustain.
It is also the year we added our designated player rule. That rule for us is not just about the signing of David Beckham, though, that clearly was an important driver of expanding our awareness, and growing that international credible and the appeal of our league both here and abroad.
But it was also Sonny Blanco in Chicago, a guy that brought tremendous, tremendous credibility to our league and that team and grew our attendance, and really grew our ratings on tell future a. Also, Juan Pablo, and Juan Claudio might not have had the impact that we would have hopefully had in New York.
Juan Pablo was a great addition to the league. And the Red Bulls attendance has gone up, the revenues have gone up, and the Red Bulls are a lot better team than they were even a year ago.
But it was more than just the international player we signed. It's the international player, in 2007, they obviously brought a whole new level of skill and passion to our field. You know who they are, the two Brazilian guys out here in D.C., and Holden Batwanger, and our MVP Luciano, you might have seen him on ESPN. He can go Spanish and English as he accepted the MVP Award.
We also had an Argentinian guy do a great job. So we're very excited in Chicago about Juan Toja, a guy that we believe in and is very committed to our league. We had a conversation with him after their last game, and he is really enjoying it here. And he's a guy that we believe could have a good future in Major League Soccer.
Once again, the mix of international and domestic players is a rich league that could possibly serve on our field and locker rooms. Josie altadore had a great season, and Maurice Adu had a great season. Two kids that were called up to be playing from South Africa for Bob Bradley on Sunday morning. He is the Argentinian guy.
Brandon had a good year. He'll be part of the National Team, and finance part of the National Team today. I think he will, consistently, we believe be part of the National Team going forward. So we are continually committed to our focus on the international player, and, perhaps on the ways that our teams can be encouraged to have more players that are international. And do everything we can to support, have the good development, and the profile of American players.
All of this didn't happen by accident. And Ivan in the off-season developed a program called game first. It is an initiative that says we as a league talk constantly about what's happening off the field. Business issues, television, sponsorship, ownership, and the like.
We want to be the leading soccer league in this league. And one of the most dominant soccer leagues around the world. Let's focus on the games first. The game first initiative has become a core principle to our thinking.
It wasn't just about player signing, it was really wanting to be sure the quality of player on the field continues to improve, and that we have a soccer environment for the fans in the stadium. So from the new vocal music that you'll see our players coming out together at the start of the MLS Cup on Sunday. To eliminating stadium announcements and music, and all the things you used to hear in our stadium, and focus on our players. It's about our players, not things taking place off the field while the games are going on.
The other priority in game first was try to simulate and encourage our teams to get involved in international competitions. To play against international opponents. And the National Team has created a terrific, terrific environment with our competition against Mexico.
We believe U.S.-Mexico matches here are among the top sporting events, most exciting sporting events in any sport anywhere in the country. We're trying to find ways to replicate that environment with our club. The Super Liga which has developed for many years has launched and had a great success. A program that had our guys standing toe to toe against the Mexican club did well. Without one penalty kick, they could have taken home a million dollars in prize money in Los Angeles.
We expect to see Super Liga continue in the same format it had this year, which is four teams from the Mexican first edition competing over the summer.
By the way, David Downs who runs Univision Sports is a soccer guy. His son plays for am hers in the Division 3 team. You guys might know him. Division 3, five round of 16 this weekend, so David couldn't be here. They have a championship weekend every year, and that talks about how that Super Liga final has higher ratings than the typical Telefutura Mexican first edition game.
MLS club playing against the Chivas having a television rating that is typical of what they get from a Mexican game in the first year. A tremendous accomplishment for Univision.
And by the way, a stat you might not have heard. Television ratings in that game, the final on tell visa doubled the television rating for last January. And that is a pretty good thing for us.
We had a lot of momentum for 2007. Lot of big plans for 2008. Our focuses remain for and continue to ultimately improve the quality of play. The international exposure and credibility, and broadening it so, and the involvement of the united marketing. Spending time on expansion and talking about what's going on in those areas.
Next year we add our Portland team in San Jose. This team has a tremendous response from the community. We said when we left that we'd be back. And the media looked at us with some skepticism. It took us a number of years to get back, but it was a huge focus of ours to get back to San Jose.
When we left that market that weekend, we made a deal with the mayor to try to get a package of funding to be able to provide to an ownership group. Ultimately, that package of funding never came through. But they have a stadium in place that they can play temporarily at Santa Clara University. And they hope to be able to finalize the plans for that stadium outside the airport.
They showed a picture of what that development looks like today. It is right adjacent to the airport, on the freeway. It will be a fantastic site and a large development.
The response we received from Seattle was overwhelming. More than we expected by the way. Over- delivery on the expectations in Toronto. So we're beginning to see that going into the right market with the right ownership can deliver some special things for us.
It proves to us that we really need to pay attention to where we need to go next, what kind of facilities we play in, and who our owners are.
Much of the learning that we've had in Seattle and San Jose comes from Toronto F C. This is not an accident. These guys had a very, very focused plan. Equally delving into the world of cyber and viral marketing. Going out and connecting with guys that are hanging out in pubs and guys that are connecting with the game. That is translating over to Seattle and Drew Carey, and the teammates get in the sports bar on Monday afternoon. That was broadcasts live on the internet. And the names and email addresses of people connected to that podcast. Also, by the way, there were among 4 thousands people who committed to season tickets in the first day. So they have a formula in Toronto to do that.
They have a great stadium, great location, great ownership group and it is something we expect to continue for the time being. If you haven't heard, 15,000 seats sold out last year. And the season tickets were sold out every dame in Toronto as well. The stadium should be made larger.
Our near term goal is to have 16 teams in this league with an announcement on that 16 teams by the end of the year. If we're unable to finalize that by 2008, we'll likely make the decision to play with 15 teams in 2009. We made the decision to go off balance this year rather than try to force the situation with a 16th team.
And we have not determined if that 16th team will play in a temporary facility or play for 2010. They have 18 goals from 2010 or 2011. We think this will be a good strategy on our part. We don't need to expand, want to expand for expansion sake.
We're not only rushing to expand or generate a life plan for the right market, right opponents and right facility. So let me go down, market by market. I'll start in alphabetical order with Atlanta. MLS President Mark Abbot and I have been spending time over the last 6 to 8 months with the Atlanta Falcons, and Arthur Blank, the owner of the Falcons, often led by the president of the Falcons Dick Sullivan.
After doing due diligence on whether or not Atlanta would be a viable market and one that would have a proper stadium. Without a proper soccer stadium, we collectively agreed we're not going to Atlanta. We believe Arthur is just one of those very special professional sports owners and would add great value to our sport. We believe we'd like to have a team south of that area soon. T.
Here are a number of sports teams there, and the teams over the years that have not been able to succeed as well as some of us had hoped. In view of that Hispanic market, and growing that team and we hope to be successful there.
Las Vegas is a market that is also a potential contention list for us as well as for other professional sports leagues. We've met with Mayor Goodman, and other government officials, and a number of ownership leagues including two that were here this weekend for potential expansion in that market.
The concept is there to have an indoor soccer stadium, a multi-use entertainment venue. It will be used for soccer 24 times a year, and used for many, many other things for the rest of the year. We believe that through our meetings that there is interest from both the public and private sector to support that facility. And we think if we can get more progress in that facility to get something done, that Las Vegas will be a great Major League Soccer market.
We've been in discussions with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to secure funding for a soccer stadium that would serve a home of an MLS team in the city of Miami. Those discussions are still preliminary we're still monitoring the Miami situation.
We acknowledge that we were not successful with the team in Fort Lauderdale in the past, we believe though that a stadium that is located in the Orange Bowl site that is much closer to our potential fan base that. We'll be able to get the package that we negotiated for alongside baseball, we'll be negotiating for the same thing, and we'll be able to watch growth of the team in Miami.
If you're close to what's going on in that city, Miami is a very, very different city demographically. Particularly with immigration from Central America to the Caribbean, and Latin American five or six years ago.
You've seen many reports and I'll give you lots of details about what's going on in Philadelphia. We've spent the last year in negotiations with the City of Chester, and Delaware County and Kate, Pennsylvania with Governor Rendell, on trying to put a package together for a stadium that would exist on the waterfront in Chester at the base of the Commodore Perry Bridge. An off-ramp that would come off of I-95 into the development of our stadium would exist.
We have just as recently as last week met with the head of the Pennsylvania state senate and that potential ownership group there, trying to finalize the deal. The Delaware County has committed $31 million toward that's stadium. We're working to finalize $40 million dollars in funding from the state.
The potential owner of that team is a man owner Jay Sugarman, Chief Executive Officer of I-stock Financial. 42-year-old guy, very passionate about the sport. And very committed to his success.
His partners locally would be a gentleman by the name of Jim, the founder of a group that was the former member of the board of the Hershey's Food Company. And the Puccini Cohen Group.
The Cohen family that owns the basketball team, they have a company that does development in Philadelphia. Those would be the groups that we'd ultimately try to finalize that deal.
By the way we have no doubt that we want and hope to have a team in the country's fourth largest market in about four to six weeks to push the state over the top to get it done.
Montreal was a market that we've looked at since the beginning of the league, and believe it would be a great market for our league. We look at the success in Toronto, and believe Montreal has the same demographic. Very successful minor league in there. It impacted that team, and the pseudo-family would take that rivalry between Montreal and Toronto and give us a great sort of regional competitive environment.
And to that extent, we've had preliminary discussions with the Saputo family, and being the ownership representing the ownership in that city.
Ever since the league started we've always wanted a second team in New York. And it's part of the final principles of our league, and our ownership group gave the league the right to hold the rights to a second team outside of the Metro Stars, now the Red Bulls.
The transfer of the Metro Stars over to the Red Bulls, the Red Bulls were given the right for specific amounts of money, an indemnification fee, if you will, to allow that second team to come in by the league. That process is controlled by the not by the league by the Red Bulls.
We look at the success we've had with Chivas and the Galaxy in the same stadium, we believe we need that in the nation's largest market. Those discussions will be with the Wilpon family of the New York Mets.
They have been doing a lot of due diligence on what the project might actually look like. And we have a lot of work to do to try to get the facility together. It would be a year-round multi-use soccer entertainment facility that would be based in queens.
The idea would be to have a facility that has multi-use, year-round opportunities. It would be based in the parking lot at Shea Stadium, having access to every major highway in New York City, all the subways around the railroad, it is really a perfect storm coming together, we'll be able to finalize that.
Even with the announcement regarding our interest in the Pacific Northwest, we have a new team in Seattle firmly remains a strong candidate for expansion.
We've been spending a lot of time in that market meeting with the Paulsons. He and his dad are the owners of the USO Timbers, a baseball team in Portland. We've met with them, we've met with the city and others to try to find a way we could make the appropriate modifications to Clarke so that we could have a terrific downtime location for potential MLS team. We'll continue those discussions over the next month or even year ahead to try to make some progress.
St. Louis is considered a front runner for future expansion. We'll speak with the potential ownership group there almost on a daily basis, led by a man named Jeff Cooper. Jeff has been able to put a package together with the city of Collinsville, Illinois. That's located eight miles east of St. Louis and has approved a funding package of a partnership through the public and the soccer stadium.
We are big believers in St. Louis. They have a rich tradition of sport dating back to the world cup team.
Taylor, Paulson, Pat Newna, they have all played it through. And the Secretary-General for the U.S. Soccer played there. As well as a good friend of ours who runs International Sports Marketing for Anheuser Busch, a great soccer market. We're trying to find a way to work hard to get there.
Finally and lastly, in terms of our priority markets, I think Vancouver is a tremendous opportunity for us. There are some photos that we have, and you can take a look at it some time t shows the stadium. Greg Kirkwood, the owner of the White Caps is trying to get that built down in the Vancouver waterfront. It is right downtown, right at the water. It is one of the most dramatic environments I've ever seen.
The Galaxy just played and D.C. played there the other night. It is a great market, it would be a terrific owner for us. Greg is very compassionate and committed to the sport. It is a privately financed stadium, and he'll need some approval to put that stadium on land that is located downtown with issues and what not.
We've not been able to get the public entities to approve the stadium. If they don't approve that, we're not going to have a stadium in Vancouver.
The last market, if you will, on expansion when we're done. We're making a lot of progress on stadiums in many markets. Many stadiums will be open next fall. Go on line to Real Salt Lake, and you can look at a phenomenal facility with the mountains in the backdrop located in Sandy, Utah.
It is an active, large suburban community eight miles from downtown Salt Lake city. It will be opening next year.
According to a meeting with the Red Bulls today, they will break ground shortly, formally on their building. Not moving ground, but actually going into the ground. Their stadium is planned for an opening in 2009.
They have a lot of work to do to show what they can get done for the next couple of months. If they're able to get that finalized, they're still slated for a 2009 opening for that team. And that team will be the summer of '09. And that stadium will set the bar at a level that will be hard to imagine we could top in our years to come.
We are continually frustrated by the lack of progress here in Washington, D.C. This is a team that has a tremendous fan base that is passionate, that is important, that is diverse, and has earned the right to have a soccer stadium. No different from the baseball stadium has, or the football team has. They have gone back to stage one after years of negotiating with the city. And for us, it's one of our profile and premier franchises, it is very disappointing.
So they are out looking at options outside the district. And we're hopeful that the team, I know that they're trying to work to come to some conclusion quickly.
The competition front, we've reviewed our format once again. And in view of our competition guidelines once again, both as a league and within our competition community, we've decided that we'll obtain the western region conferences. San Jose will join the West. We'll retain the same playoff format with the first round being home at home in a single game conference final leading up to a championship game in 2008.
We will retain the wildcard content. We liked that, it gained a lot of attention. The top three teams in each conference automatically qualifies you to points, and the two wildcards, regardless of conference, and the eight teams that will go into the playoffs.
So the expansion process will be similar to the one that we had with Toronto. Each team was allowed to have 11 players. No team could lose more than one player in the draft, and the expansion draft will take place next Wednesday, November 21st at 1:00 p.m.
So it has been a good year. Sunday's game should be a great way to culminate a lot of the different plays off the field. But the focus for us is still on the competition. I'll start with the international side of it.
It is still a good priority for us that the league be back. We expect a championship cup with an expanded format. We're excited about that. It could provide our teams with more competition with regional opponents and bring those games a priority for us.
We are investigating the possibility and are hopeful that we can finalize an agreement for a specific championship that would take an MLS teams versus the top teams from Asia and Australia. So we'll wait for an announcement on that in the coming weeks.
On the international front, we're making more and more headway as our credibility improves in the international side of the soccer community. This weekend, Josie Maurenyo is here this weekend. He was walking around the hotel earlier, Christian Seaver who is head of the Bundas Liga is here today. Along with a number of other friends from the English soccer community.
So our league continues to gain credibility, and more and more people continue to look at our league, and what's happening and why as well as how could they capitalize on some of this expansion that we've had with a close relationship with MLS.
So the first time in our history we'll have the same two teams into the MLS Cup finals. I'd like to congratulate all the members of the Dynamo and Revolution Organization. I know some of the members are here from the Revolution, I don't know if anybody's here from the Dynamo.
But it is the players that make it happen on the field, and we have great organizations in both these markets that help drive the success and stability, and the consistency that helps drive the success that these two teams have had. The success that both teams have had. Sustaining more players on the roster than any other club.
The revolution had using just 30 different players in the past three seasons. The revolution used 37 the fewest in Major League Soccer. And some teams have used that many in one season alone. So it is a pretty big story. Pretty good reason why the team is so successful.
While we can talk a lot about what players have been able to do on the field, there are great stories both with participating teams and league- wise. There is a great story for our league continues to be that our players continue to be model citizens, and great role models both for our league and for our sport.
We believe it is one of the true points of differences between our league and others, and the big reason why Major League Soccer gets the support and our fan base on the field, just like our players off the field. And I hope that continues for a long time.
Speaking of those guys that are worthy of admiration and support. We have four of the MLS originals here this year. They're all with us this weekend. They've all finished their playing careers in 2007. And there is a great story that many of them have already continued with us both in the front office or on the coaching range. Jason Kobinart coaches in the league, and Kobe has recently announced that he's assistant coach in Los Angeles.
And it really is a credit to U.S. Soccer System, the club system before they got to the National Team, and the experience they've had in the open market and who they are and the way they've approached this sport the way they have.
So we'll start with 2008 with the momentum that we were able to achieve coming out of a great 2007. The year will start with the MLS Super Cap in Baltimore. The season will kick off Saturday March 29th. Also the game will take place in July in Toronto.
We will conclude this season on November 23rd at the MLS Cup. We made that decision, and will be announcing that shortly after we follow some of the details.
So on behalf of all of us on the MLS, and on behalf of the league office that's represented here, some of our ownership groups that are here in the room, some of our staff that are here in the room, particularly to you the media, thank you for your support.
Thank you for what you do to continue to drive the sport in the papers and on the radio stations. Without you, this league would not be the way it is, and our sport wouldn't be the way it is. So we appreciate what you've done. And ask for our help if we can help you push it over the top, and look forward to seeing you on Sunday. We look forward to the kickoff. Thank you.
Q. Is it fair to assume that if there is an expansion team this year, it will be Philadelphia?
COMMISSIONER GARBER: No, I don't think we can say Philadelphia yet. We have two situations going on. We have a situation in Philadelphia where you have a solid ownership group, and we don't yet have a final funding package with the situation in St. Louis where we have a final funding package but not an ownership group.
A lot has to happen over the next couple of weeks to make the ultimate push to final one or two great deals. At this point.
Q. But do you think will be one of those two teams?
COMMISSIONER GARBER: It's more our focus is more than likely today on one of those two. If we can finalize one of those two, or we'll go to plan B.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: We'll go through that process, and we don't know what the country will be like, what the league will be like, what the position will be ten years from now. But right now we are focusing on 16 teams in the league.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: Let me start by saying I think of all the projects that we've been working on for nine years and my 12 years. I've never sat in the Governor's Office? Like we did with Ed Rendell and sitting out on a yellow pad and started sketching out how to find ways to get part of the funding.
So we have a very committed governor. We have a very committed county and city. And I believe we have a legislature that is looking to consolidate some of the rationale that we provided them with in the ownership has provided them with, and find a way that they approve this. And these things take an enormous amount of time.
They go sideways at times. With the timing on approval is not in our hands. It's generally in the legislative bodies hands and that affects our abilities to make decisions.
So our statement affiliates we said in the newspaper, that this city, it's Philadelphia has been very close to the finish line. Just with the legislative push to get the funding out of the state legislature by December 15th at the end of that session if that happens, Philadelphia has an inside track. If it doesn't happen, Philadelphia could go way down on the list.
Q. (Indiscernible). Was it smart that they make good decisions and make decisions that will deliver on and off the field. Montreal team?
COMMISSIONER GARBER: The facility is small to what ultimately, we believe that market will be able to achieve. The situation in Toronto is remarkable. It's something we came up with a development in a facility.
I don't think that we or they thought it would go out two years in a row. So when we look at Montreal, and you look at Vancouver. I think the expectations are that they're going to deliver a similar fan base. Planning for the impact being too small.
They have to decide whether to expand that, how would they do that. All sorts of things will go on. That is part of why we are where we are. But the Saputo family is very, very philanthropic. John Saputo runs a great team, loves the sport. And they handled themselves well in their initial discussions with us, and we hope to find a way to get something done.
Q. What are the chances a team will be expanded this year? And talk about paying (Indiscernible)?
COMMISSIONER GARBER: Well, we won't talk about the salary cap today. What I will say is that we made enormous progress on the field this year. The salary cap grew. We expect that our salary cap will grow again next year. To what extent? We're not going to be specific on. We expect to have the same level of improvement that we had on our field this is year.
So if you look at where we are this year, and adding up two dozen international players, all within our current system had five players, including one of the more recognizable players in the world, it worked pretty well.
So, you know, for now, we have a system that we're committed to so our conservative growth strategy. And I don't see us out of that on the short term.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: Well, signing David Beckham has exceeded our expectations on every measure. He is an absolute gentleman. A guy that fits the character of the top league that we want to have in this country. With everything that we act waited to do from a community basis to a philanthropic basis to a promotional basis, we did. And that is something that all professional athletes at that level agree to do.
He's certainly raised our awareness and credibility here, and again in the broadcast overseas. Interesting our league in England is off the charts. When I was over at the NFL game in London, I was attending a session on international sports with the economists.
It was right after the last Chicago Fire-LA. Galaxy game. And that game was covered on the BBC as if it was a premier league game. And by the way, before David Beckham, we were not covered on the BBC.
So the exposure that we got from David, regardless of how many games he played, was fantastic. So nobody signed any athlete and got disappointed when they are not able to play every game and perform at the highest level.
We're in the sport business. I hope that David's healthy for his purposes as well as for the Galaxys and for the league. And we're able to have a freshman year in his sophomore year. No matter what that is, we'll have a first year all over again next year. I happen to think it's a good thing.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: I think it's all those things. We have a great market, and we're going to be playing on top field turf. And you can't build grass here, so we don't really have a choice. If we can't have grass, we find a way to do it. If the latter is what you have to take. Nobody will look at field turf and say that is it as attractive a product for our game as natural grass.
But if you were limited to natural grass, we wouldn't be playing in New England, because that stadium because of different weather purposes went to field turf. And we can't play on grass. We don't have a choice.
So it's an education process with the players, working with the industry to try to help them develop better products. From our perspective, it is very much about presentation on the field.
At the playoff game on ESPN2, and the New England Revolution beat the Chicago Fire, I was up in Boston with the Kraft family, and you couldn't see the lines. The family made a commitment to work with the football team, and the lines were erased and off of the field. And that is technology that is a couple years ago.
So with the Seahawks putting in a new field, and looking at Velcroing in the end zone. That's a revolutionary idea, but it's to workout the most unattractive parks back then. We'll obviously have the field play the way we want it to play.
That's not just an issue for us. It's an issue in Norway, it's an issue in other countries, countries in Africa. At some point, you have grass stadiums around the world, they have built their stadiums for artificial surfaces throughout the world.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: We recognize that it's an issue.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: Yeah, you know, this is not the ABC question, and the filter question. We has a 12-year-old league have to make decisions that are -- that are in all times decisions that are very specific. So the success of our league has been built by strength of ownership, and soccer stadiums and the like. But we very much believe in the league, and we move to the pacific northwest.
By the way, we could be waiting for the Seattle Super Sonics to resolve their situation, which is a challenging one for everyone. Putting a stadium in that community. Then not going to Seattle for another two, five or eight years.
Or like in Philadelphia it could be 12 years there. Or work with ownership to try to find the right scenario. We could make quest stadium the right facility for the team.
I believe that the stadiums in New England Revolution works for them, works for the players, works for the community. That doesn't mean that the Kraft family isn't going to look at building a new soccer stadium.
It could be at some point the ownership there looks at a whole new stadium. We don't believe that is in the near term. That is something we require in this situation. Judging by the 5,000 tickets sold in three days, I'm not sure we'll have that problem with that facility.
Q. (Indiscernible) can you talk about the rule, and the explanation and how it's going to play out?
COMMISSIONER GARBER: We are strategically aligned with the federation, albeit a legal governing body. We have a close relationship with all three of the commercial sides and certainly want to do our part on the sporting side.
So we are very supportive of Chuck Blazer and Jack Werner's plans to expand. And to provide them an opportunity to improve our medal on a regional rival. Hopefully bring more attention to the sport, and get the sonics community primarily the Cleveland community more engaged with the game here in this country, in a way that we can conceivably have a broad commercial role.
So we're still trying to figure out what role we have beyond just having our teams participate. But I'm fairly confident that we'll be able to come to some conclusion where in time we have a strategic relationship.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: I don't know whether that's been announced. I think they announced the concept, but we're waiting on the details of the format.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: The ownership group actually controls and owns soccer in that stadium year round. The revenue refers to the ownership group. The sponsorship, and all those things from a commercial base pertaining to the team is at the purview of the ownership group. Including working the ownership, et cetera, et cetera. We don't have that with Jeff Laurie and Lincoln Financial. That would be like the deal like we had in the Netherlands and we would never do that again. Those days are over.
Q. (Indiscernible)? (Indiscernible)?
COMMISSIONER GARBER: We'll continue that in the short and near term, Michael. We talk about competition all the time. I was at a game up in New England under 32°. There were 8,000 or 9,000 fans there. Yet in Houston you have 30, 000 fans when the weather was a little better.
I've said this to fans in an interview I did the other day. When our fans show us they are agnostic to the weather and we can seriously look at playing in inclement weather, and having weather that is a little more risky for us. We're going to have cold weather in Washington, D.C. We have tickets out. When you have expectations they're going to show. It's cold and they don't show, we're going to play.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: We're going to have one owner that still owns two teams. And our goal is to have owners owning just one team. And we have to work through that process. Looking at potentially making decisions on Columbus. Actually, making decisions on not about moving them, but getting local owners there. But other than that there are no talks whatsoever on any stability in our local market, and that is a good position to be in.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: There are a multitude of issues in trying to capture those decisions. One of them is a very important goal of ours. Another one is to have a situation in New York City where we had, one in Mexico City, or just in Milan.
So, while that doesn't satisfy our opportunity to expand, if you have a great facility in New York City, it's hard to imagine that kind of thing. But it's a priority of ours. On the first front, that situation needs to be resolved with a plan, it needs to be resolved quickly. We're going to spend time together trying to figure out with the L.A. Galaxy has to figure out, ultimately how that situation gets resolved. I can't put any timetable on it now. But it's certainly something that's going to get resolved. In the next couple of weeks.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: There haven't been, probably wouldn't open that discussion until it was over.
Q. Well, they're making progress. They're in negotiations with the city. They're leading that charge. And more that team continues to be successful and have an avid fan base, the better off progress is, and opportunity is to finalize there. But I don't think anything has happened since the last time you were there.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: I remember them yesterday. We are in discussions with our union on a regular basis. Our agreement expires, for those who don't know, by the end of the 2009 season. And we are spending time together as a group trying to figure out what the expectations will be. We're trying to figure out, I'm sure they're trying to figure it out as well. There is no specific timetable.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to go with our final question. We're going to go with our final question. And in addition to the commissioner, deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis, and Mark Abbot, and Doug Flynn are all here. And you can certainly interview a few of them one-on-ones for a while. So we'll go with our final question right back here.
COMMISSIONER GARBER: Well, that probably plays into the question. We recognize them. We have a championship game, game day that is played up in South Africa. So our league has always recognized those games.
We have our challenges how we manage through players and our leases because we don't close those places down because we're playing on the most part when those dates are put on the calendar. So we change -- until we change our calendar, we're going to have a real challenge trying to align ourself with the official FIFA base. We try to manage through it but it's difficult, we'll work on it the following year.
IVAN GAZIDIS: Actually, the Landon Donovan situation. When we adopted Landon, Eddie Johnson, and Carlos Ruiz were grandfathered for a year, toward the end of that period. And the Revolution was, at the time, we'd review at the time.
We're in the process of that review, we started it today, it will be concluded shortly, and there will be a decision made on that we'll make an announcement on that.
The other thing I'm not sure we talked about was we picked up on the Toronto international player. I think there was the question would there be some move on the Toronto or international player, and that was another sum of review. There could be an a announcement on that next week. So we are looking at that for the competition, and the board members.
End of FastScripts