MLS expansion - 24 teams by 2013?
They add that, "Vancouver and Montreal are considered expansion priorities for Garber in 2011."
This is not the first time that similar rumors have jumped up, but let's say it is true that tomorrow will see a big announcement concerning expansion, what does it mean?
First off, if the league targets 20-24 teams in the next six years, they must do something concerning the player pool. What this means is more international players and an increase in the salary cap, but that starts bringing in thoughts of NASL. MLS has tried hard to stay away from any such comparisons but if this is their realistic goal, they will need to address it soon (quick note, MLS is in a much better financial state today then NASL ever was).
Next up, the schedule. Is the East/West divide soon to be gone in favor of a single table or might they break into two different leagues and never play each other except for in cup competitions (think old school baseball rules)? Also, how does Superliga fit into this? If clubs are playing 38-46 league games*, plus US Open Cup, plus Concacaf, plus MLS Cup matches, they could easy end up with almost 60 meaningful matches in a season so throwing on 3-5 more for Superliga would be asking a great deal. Is MLS ready to kill off a moneymaker?
Finally, there is the issue of television deals. The current broadcasts are a huge improvement over a few years ago, however it is time to push for more airing over non-cable channels. The fact that most games are not available for a large (perhaps majority) portion of the country hurts the development of a stronger fan base. What casual fan is going to go hunting for HDNet or Fox Soccer Channel, if they even have it on their cable system? If they can get a game or two a week on over-the-air, national networks, the perception of the sport will begin to change. Remember, if it wasn't on TV, it didn't happen.
I know, I'm really jumping ahead of everything here, but if this is to be the path for the league, they need to make sure it is a success and these are the big three issues as I see them.
On the plus side, 24 teams means just about every large urban area in the US and Canada will have a team. Also, if they broke the FIFA limit for 24, what would stop them from going higher and adding smaller markets that show an ability to support teams.
* this assumes that teams play each other twice