First, it's 24 teams max. Now, we hear from MLS Commissioner Don Garber that he wants 28 teams playing in MLS. What trajectory is he setting? It's time to visit the Golden Circle, ladies and gentlemen!
"What's the Golden Circle?" What a great question! The Golden Circle helps organization focus on their purpose. I've been reading Simon Sinek's "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action." Most organizations and marketers start with the wrong question, such as 'what' or 'how.' For instance, Garber has told us the 'what': twenty-eight teams by such-and-such date. We even know the 'how': proposals from owners and investors in a certain city, deliberation, examination, then a proclamation or a declining.
But 'why'? Garber clearly wants MLS to stay competitive and thriving, not simply in existence and scraping by. While many debate the merits of the single-entity paradigm in place, it is keeping MLS afloat while it aims to gain traction in the states. But why would Garber want to expand to 28 teams? Here are what I believe some good answers to that question (and yes, this can certainly be a positive).
- The most obvious one is to have more 'soccer presences' in the country. Call me Captain Obvious, but having more MLS teams in strategic areas is a win--if you have the talent to make it happen. Otherwise, MLS will go the way of the other major sports in having so many teams, the quality of play decreases.
- I see this as a way to have promotion and relegation in the top tier. If you have 28, 30, or 32 teams, you could split that number in half and have the equivalent of a Premiere League/Championship League. This would also allow NASL and the USL to stay their own entity, but still serve as a 'minor league' for MLS. How practical any of this would be is hard to say, but I see possibilities.
Here, Garber and the MLS higher-ups need to tread carefully. Regardless of how much you like MLS, the quality of play has not reached the levels of Europe or South America yet. As we've seen with the CONCACAF Champions League, MLS is starting to hold its own against Mexican clubs, but even there, no MLS team has even won that cup. So before Garber talks of expansion to 28, count the cost. Will you have a talent pool from which to draw? Garber needs to remember that a sign of a strong leader is knowing what your lane is, and to stay in that lane--and when to switch lanes. Right now, MLS is driving on an Interstate and doing well.
Let's not mistake the Interstate for an autobahn.