Soccer

Wileman: MLS president Abbott holds court with media

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Luke Wileman
8/5/2014 2:06:17 PM
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Major League Soccer President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott met with the media in Portland on Tuesday ahead of the league's All Star Game against German giants Bayern Munich (Wednesday night - live on TSN at 9:30pm et).

Abbott was the league's first employee back in 1993. He discussed many of the big issues surrounding MLS at the moment including comments made by FIFA President Sepp Blatter in Toronto on Monday. Blatter said MLS is pressing ahead with plans to realign its schedule with the FIFA calendar, but Abbott maintains the league's stance has not changed: "We looked at it last fall and concluded that at this point in time it is not a change we could make," he said. "There is nothing imminent."

Here are some of the other highlights from Abbott's meeting with the media:

On a big summer for soccer:

"It has been a great week so far for us in a Portland and part of a tremendous summer for us. The World Cup had a breakthrough in cultural relevance that we hadn't really seen before. It showed how big the fan base is."

On finding new buyers for Chivas USA:

"We've been spending a lot of time talking to potential buyers. I am very optimistic we can find a wonderful ownership group. I don't have a specific timetable yet but it is an area of high focus for me. I anticipate in a reasonable period of time we will have a new buyer for that club. We have been looking at USC as a potential site for a stadium. Our focus is on a central LA location. We are not going to publicly negotiate the price but it will be more than was paid by Orlando."

On the stadium situation in Miami:

"Clearly we were disappointed about the two sites we had been focused on. We are spending a lot if time trying to find a location for the stadium along with David Beckham and his people."

On Canadian players being treated as domestic players in the United States:

"There is a US law issue. Anybody who is not a US citizen has to be treated the same, that being said, we have committed to the Canadian Soccer Association that we will look at potential solutions that can help. In my experience, when people are committed to solving a problem, they will find a solution. We value our partnership with the CSA, and it is a focus for us."

On Sacramento's bid for an expansion franchise, and potential ownership involving Sacramento Kings:

"We always talk about three things we look at. The first is market dynamics, and there are a lot of really wonderful things going on in Sacramento. The second is, you have to have a facility. We are going to visit the market later this year. The third is the ownership group. There are significant people in Sacramento who have an interest in seeing MLS come there, including the Mayor. I do not want to get into specifics regarding potential ownership groups but we have great respect for what the ownership groups have done with the Kings and also Sacramento Republic."

On an increase in salary cap:

"Without taking about specifics, over time we will confine to invest more in players and we have shown that consistently. We recognize the importance of continuing to grow the product on the field. Over the last couple of years we have shown our desire to invest in players."

On the upcoming CBA negotiations:

"The Collective Bargaining Agreement is about investing in players. Those discussions will be about how we invest in players. We are not going into it looking for a work stoppage, we have a good partnership with our players and we talk a lot with them. We are tremendously proud of our players of the way they conduct themselves on and off the field. They are committed to helping build the sport. CBA's by their very nature involve contention. Sometimes that can get a little noisy, but if we can keep it all in the negotiation room, that provides everybody more flexibility to get things done. We met with the union not long a go and they would like the same thing. We don't go into it looking for a fight and nor do they."

On introducing promotion or relegation:

"I would say that never happens."

On the playoff format:

"From a general perspective, the format we have, we like. It doesn't mean we might not tinker with it, but we are happy with what we have. The playoffs are working. The basic concept is one we think makes sense and is correct."

On seeing the league grow over the last two decades:

"It has exceeded every expectation that I had. It is bigger in terms of its relevance. The sport has grown in a way none of us saw coming. It is the demographic shifts that you couldn't have seen 20 years ago. In every way we have exceed where we thought we would be, but we also recognize there is so much opportunity and more to be done."

Mark Abbott (Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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