This week’s State of the League speech by The Soccer Don, Commissioner Don Garber, felt like a bit of a commencement speech. Upon further thinking about it, and reflecting on the growth and development of the MLS, to me, that is exactly what it was. Major League Soccer has finally graduated from high school, with the 2010 MLS Cup being held in Toronto this weekend as post graduation party. Come Monday, the league begins the “University” phase of it growth and development with the commencement of the 2011 season.
In the Q&A session following the speech by Commissioner Garber he was asked about the need for continual change to the competitive format of the league, the playoff structure and his frustration about having to tinker with it year over year, because of the growth and development of the league. He said, “…It is hard to argue that there have been any negatives that have come out of the growth of the league. We have to continue to evolve, and I believe we’ll settle in on a permanent system sometime in probably three to five years. But probably not before then.” Hmmn…the length of time is generally takes to finish an University education.
Cardinal John Henry Newman, recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on September 19, 2010, wrote about the purpose of a University education. He was a scholar and educator at Oxford University. In his work “The Idea of a University,” Newman says that with a university education, “a habit of mind is formed which lasts through life.” In view of that, a university education should be designed to last a lifetime, not just through a career. Well as the MLS enters the “University” phase of its development, growth and existence it has a number of important issues to decide that will form the habit of mind which will last through its lifetime. Some of those issues include: Single Table vs. Conference Format, Support and development of Derby’s and local rivalries, Fan’s not Families, Deeper involvement and participation of the supporters groups int he league structure, Support of the domestic and international non-league competitions such the US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, Super Liga, and Club World Cup, Potential participation in COMNEBOL’s Copa Libertadores, the development of a true Reserve League and Academy System, substantial improvement of Officiating to name a few.
All of these are issues that will be debated heavily both inside and outside the league FO’s. I will be writing a series of blogs, that will appear between my Blog here and on the Prost Amerika web site at (http://www.prostamerika.com/ that will provide a vision for a long-term structure of what MLS could become given the different forces on the league from the league, to the supporters, to the players, and the owners. I hope to have several lively discussions as this proceeds, as I undertake this task that is obviously designed to give me something to do when there are no Sounders matches to attend!