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Rosters growing, Reserve league back in ’11

November 16, 2010 | 12:29 pm 5
By Shaun Schafer

Major League Soccer team rosters will grow from 26 to 30 for 2011, and the Reserve League will return as a development tool, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday.

These were among the revelations from the commissioner during his annual state of the league speech. Along with roster expansion as the league grows from 16 to 18 teams and the schedule expands from 30 to 34 games, MLS is also moving up the season start date and wrestling with conference alignment, Garber said.

The competition committee is looking at the virtues of having a balanced or unbalanced conference schedule for 2011, an issue that will be further complicated by the addition of the Montreal Impact at the league’s 19th team in 2012. The league is also considering modifications to the current format of eight playoff teams, and the possibility of awarding the MLS Cup match to the highest-seeded team. This latter idea was strongly consider before awarding the game to Toronto this season.

Regardless of how the conferences are organized — or named — play will begin in early March. Matches will start March 19 or 20, with a possible “First Kick” game to start the season, Garber said. The MLS Cup will be Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.

Fearless Forecast: The league’s first cold weather cup, with forecast highs in the 40s, will also bring a new champion to the MLS ranks, either the Colorado Rapids or FC Dallas. The two original league members have a combined one previous appearance in the finals, the Rapids 2-1 loss in the rain to DC United in 1997.

After noting that the league had been stingy in sharing the MLS Cup glory, having a new champion would be good for MLS, he said.

“Only a few teams that have a lot of stars,” Garber said in reference to past cup wins. He then commended the final opponents.

Dallas is “really good, really young, really fast; a tough team to stand up against,” Garber said. However “the Rapids are up to the task.”

He also singled out Pablo Mastroeni and Omar Cummings for praise.

Rosters: The key to this expansion is the requirement that roster spots 25-30 must be held by players 24 or younger, Garber said.

“We’re expanding our rosters to have more young players,” Garber said.

This announcement was probably good news for college and youth academy players, and bad news for veterans seeing spot duty.

Kit Sponsors: Each team in the league will have jersey sponsors signed within the next couple of years, Garber said. Selling corporate space on the front of jerseys means an additional $20 million to $30 million in revenue for clubs in the league, he said.

The Rapids and Dallas are among the minority of teams that do not have a sponsor’s logo on the players kit.

Playing Reserves: The reserve teams will be divided into three, six-team regions. Each team will play the other five times in its region twice. Eight of the 18 reserve teams will advance to a reserve league playoff after the 10-game regular season, Garber said. Unlike the previous incarnation of the Reserve League, players will have to be on team rosters, under trial or members of team academies, Garber said. Reserve games will be played on the day after first-team games when schedules allow, the commissioner added.

In his conference, Garber noted that the reserve games are “an essential part of the player development in the U.S.”

Some of the Reserve League success stories include Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz and Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski. Wondo was the all-time leading scoring in the four years of the reserve league, netting 31 goals, Garber added.

These are “key players who probably would not be in the MLS,” Garber said, without the reserve experience.

CONCACAF: MLS remains committed to the CONCACAF Champions League, Garber said. For the 2011 season, the league will send four clubs into the competition with Mexican and Central American clubs. Supporters Shield holder Los Angeles Galaxy, U.S. Open Cup winner Seattle Sounders, and MLS Cup finalists Colorado and Dallas.

COMNEBOL: Garber said the league was interested in overtures for joining the marquee South American club competition. However, he said there were no firm plans.

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5 Comments »

  • Crazy Jon B said:

    The three things that make me giddy are the kit sponsors, the return of the Reserve League as well as the COMNEBOL… Rapids 2-1 with goals by Wells Thompson and Conor Casey

  • george tanner said:

    here’s to a cold night in toronto. take that, dallas!

  • Shaun Schafer said:

    A Wells Thompson goal is a bold prediction, but I like it.

    I agree about the return of the Reserve League. MLS didn’t quite get it right the first time, but it needed to happen. Without reserve games, it’s tough to cultivate the roster.

  • Delbert Schafer said:

    I like the idea for the Reserve League.
    Would love it if had a developmental league like the NBA, and there would be a D-team in Albuquerque area.

  • Shaun Schafer said:

    The Reserve league makes sense when you consider that a maximum of 14 of your now 30-man roster is getting on the field in any given game. It’s impossible to be match fit without meaningful playing time. Plus, the Rapids Reserves performed well in the first incarnation and two of them, Kimura and Cummings, are key components of this team.

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