Major League Soccer (MLS) Commissioner Don Garber stopped by Red Bull Arena in Harrison on Saturday to take in New York hosting DC United as part of the much hyped "Rivalry Weekend" for the league. During halftime of the match Garber answered several questions in an impromptu press conference which included the standard MLS to Queens questions, but also a very different tone regarding Orlando's expansion chances.
Garber stated that there's been "a lot of activity in Orlando" in the last several months and that "we (MLS) are more focused on Florida than ever before." He went on to mention that "there's 70M-80M people in that part of the country, we don't have any representation (further south) than DC. Florida's become a bit more of a priority."
While his statements on Saturday do not spell a golden ticket for Orlando into the chocolate factory that is MLS, Garber's comments continue a streak of a very noticeable tone change when discussing expansion. Let's take a look back at how MLS has addressed the expansion effort in Queens compared to that in Orlando over the last few months with quotes from Garber or his staff.
MLS in Queens
October 10, 2012 - MLS league president Mark Abbott states that, "this is our priority in terms of next expansion, which will be our 20th team."
November 26, 2012 - During his state-of-the-league teleconference Don Garber states, "our plans continue for the 20th club to be in New York City, a team that would play in Flushing Meadows."
December 5, 2012 - Don Garber and MLS officials hold a town hall meeting in Queens to present their stadium plans to the public and tout the next expansion franchise playing there in 2015 or 2016.
February 27, 2013 - Don Garber during his "March to Soccer" address says, "if we're not successful we'll throw our hands up, and it will be far sooner than three years (when) we throw our hands up" regarding a deal getting done or not getting done in Queens.
March 17, 2013 - Don Garber as part of "Rivalry Weekend" speaking on Queens effort, "it needs to get done so we can move on with our expansion plans."
MLS in Orlando
November 5, 2012 - League Spokesman Don Courtemanche was asked by the Orlando Business Journal about the team's chances of an expansion franchise. He responded with, "our discussions with Phil Rawlins and Orlando city have been positive and we continue to monitor the market as a potential location for a future MLS franchise."
November 26, 2012 - During his state-of-the-league teleconference Don Garber states, "we will continue to monitor what is happening down there" referring to Orlando City.
February 27, 2013 - Don Garber during his "March to Soccer" regarding Orlando City's stadium plan, "if they are able to achieve that, it makes them an even more viable candidate than they are today."
March 17, 2013 - Don Garber as part of "Rivalry Weekend" states that, "there's been a lot of activity in Orlando... we are more focused on Florida than ever before."
We have been stating for the last year that the efforts in Queens and Orlando are independent of each other, and in all likelihood, both cities will receive expansions franchises in the next few years. But it is hard not to notice the change in tone from headquarters when it comes to these two very different efforts.
For all the latest news in Orlando City's efforts to join Major League Soccer, make sure to check out our archive of all of our articles on the team here.