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MLS commissioner says no word yet on where Canadian teams will play in 2021

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaks during the Major League Soccer 25th Season kickoff event in New York, Feb. 26, 2020. Calling it "a season that we will remember forever," Garber said Major League Soccer's revenue is down almost US$1 billion compared to last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Richard Drew
Original Publication Date December 08, 2020 - 10:21 AM

Calling it "a season that we will remember forever," commissioner Don Garber said Major League Soccer's revenue is down almost US$1 billion compared to last year.

"Not only have we lost a significant amount of revenue, as have so many other businesses certainly in our industry, we've also incurred expenses that we were not intending to incur," he said in response to a question after his annual state of the league address Tuesday.

Garber cited teams chartering to each game and the "enormous" cost of staging the MLS is Back Tournament in July as unexpected expenses. The loss of almost all gate revenue has also hurt.

"So actually the (financial) Impact of all this is probably deeper than what we expected," he said. "And that is concerning to us. But our owners have been understanding this impact from the very beginning.

"We are concerned about what this will look like leading into 2021 and are working, as I'm sure everybody could imagine, on figuring out how we could manage through that. I am very very hopeful that 2021 will be a way better year than '20 because I don't think any business could sustain the kind of impact that we sustained in 2020 for two years in a row."

Garber said he is "concerned" about where the three Canadian teams will be able to play in 2021 because of the pandemic.

He said it was too early to say where Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto will play after a year that saw them have to move south of the border because of pandemic-related travel restrictions and quarantine.

"These are enormous challenges for players and staff," he said. "So we don't have any news on what's going to happen with the Canadian MLS teams."

The hope is the Canadian clubs can resume play in their home markets and teams can resume normal travel across the border. "But it's too early to make a guess on that," he added.

He expressed support and gratitude to players on the Canadian franchises for their efforts during a difficult season. Garber also said he was impressed by how the Canadian government has managed through the pandemic.

The league continues to target early to mid-March to open the 2021 season with expansion Austin FC bringing the number of franchises to 27.

While Garber outlined the burden of the pandemic on MLS, he also cited the league's accomplishments saying it had completed 97 per cent of scheduled regular-season matches and all post-season games after the MLS is Back Tournament.

"We were the only league in the world to play in a bubble and continue in our markets with a regular season and then complete a post-season in our local markets," he said. "It was an outstanding, remarkable undertaking."

MLS completed a regular season featuring some 324 games, he added.

Still, the league laid off nearly 20 per cent of its staff — "which was traumatic for all of us" — and players took a five per cent "salary adjustment."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec 8, 2020

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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