by Paul Kennedy
MLS will kick off its 28th season on Saturday with its 29th team, expansion St. Louis City SC, in action at Austin FC.
But expansion won't end there.
MLS commissioner Don Garber expects the 30th team to be announced in 2023 and doesn't rule out further expansion.
He describes the MLS footprint — from New England to Inter Miami and LAFC and the LA Galaxy to Vancouver — as the North American pro sports model.
"We have teams across four time zones, multiple climate zones," Garber said at MLS's media day on Wednesday. "We do need more teams. The 30th team will come at some point soon. Hopefully, we'd like to get that announced by the end of the year. I never thought we'd be at 28. I never thought we'd be at 29. We'd say we're going to stop at 30, but the other major leagues are larger than that."
In his remarks before MLS Cup 2022, Garber said San Diego and Las Vegas were the top candidates — "It's not a matter of who's first or who's second," he said in November — and they remain the favorites to be selected as MLS's 30th team.
"I don't ever say never in Major League Soccer," he said. "There are many other markets that are opportunities for us. I think San Diego and Las Vegas are the most likely opportunities for 30. But we don't have a team in Phoenix; we don't have a team in Sacramento; we don't have a team in Detroit, which are all big markets in our country. You never know. Tampa is another big city. Soccer is exploding professionally everywhere, on the professional side and the men's and women's side, so we'll see."
Garber was speaking at the new studios in New York's Spanish Harlem that will be the home for MLS Season Pass's three game-day shows. MLS Season Pass is Apple TV's new subscription channel that will carry every MLS game, most on Saturday nights.
"It starts with the reconfiguration of how we are presenting our league to our fans," Garber said. "We started with fans first. How do we create a schedule that works for them as opposed to what works for a media partner? How do we create a time slot that works for our teams? Would you like to play games on Saturday night and Wednesday? How do we have the opportunity to speak in the global narrative because we are a global sport?"
The 2023 season will be the first of a 10-year agreement between MLS and Apple.
"How unbelievable is it for us to be able to partner with the leading company in the world that thinks about the fan and the consumer first," Garber said. "It's not thinking about how does my device work for them. It's how does somebody want to interact with my device and now their content that, frankly, they're great leaders in. It's been an incredible journey to get to where we are with Apple."
• On Tuesday, MLS announced it extended its agreement with adidas — the league's exclusive uniform sponsor — to remain as the official supplier for MLS, its teams and youth academies.
CNBC reported the new eight-year agreement is valued at $830 million, representing adidas' largest-ever investment in North American soccer, and will replace the current agreement that was set to expire of the end of 2024.