Don Garber has long said promotion and relegation is not coming to Major League Soccer anytime soon. At a news conference Friday, the MLS commissioner reiterated that stance despite the prospect of large-scale expansion in the future.
“I believe we can expand and manage a league far greater and larger than we are today without having to contemplate promotion and relegation,” Garber said.
Speaking at an event for sports commissioners arranged by the Associated Press Sports Editors Association, Garber confirmed plans to go beyond 24 teams in MLS, but insisted promotion and relegation is not necessary to manage a larger league.
“The other [American sports] leagues are that big and they’ve been doing pretty well without promotion and relegation,” Garber said.
The four major sports leagues in the United States, MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL, have at least 30 franchises, with the NFL having 32 teams.
Garber cited the challenges of being both in a global market where promotion and relegation is prominent, yet being in a country where it is non existent.
“What’s interesting for us in our business is we’re playing a global game and under the auspices of a global governing body, yet we’re operating in the North American market, where we have salary caps, partnerships among owners, revenue sharing, where we have unique relationships with the community,” Garber said. “Our teams are not clubs – they are local businesses.”
The commissioner did concede the future may be different, and the sport may take the league in directions he has not foreseen.
“I’ve learned forever is a long time,” he said. “There will be somebody sitting here 20 years from now and the league might look totally different. The world of global football might look totally different.”
However, that very different world is not something supporters of promotion and relegation should expect to wake up to anytime soon.
“But I will certainly tell you in the near term, and that near term will be a long time from now, that there will not be promotion and relegation,” Garber said. “It makes absolutely no sense. There is not a developed secondary division. We have union agreements. We have national television deals. We have investors who have put in billions of dollars. It is not something that is going to be able to be managed anytime soon.”