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The present and future of MLS

MLS commissioner Don Garber met the media yesterday, in advance of the contest between the league's all-stars and Chelsea tonight in Chicago. Jamie Trecker has an excellent summary, detailing a number of positive facts, and also the conundrum facing MLS. TV coverage is growing, with more games to be shown in prime time. League expansion to 16 teams by 2010 is on track. That's all good.

The conundrum: everyone knows that the product on the field has a long way to go. Trecker mentions one policy change which addresses this problem, albeit it in a small way. MLS has departed from the "league as a unit" model by giving teams "vertical development rights" to young players that they identify and sign. Transferring those rights from the league to the teams means scouts from MLS teams will have the same incentives as scouts from teams in the rest of the world to discover talent. That's a step in the right direction.

Here's another sign of latent demand for top-drawer soccer in the U.S.: 7,000 fans showed up at Toyota Park for Chelsea's practice last night. That's almost as many as the 7,710 who showed up for last week's MLS match between the Wizards and the Revolution. Make of the 7,000 what you wish; the 7,710 figure implies that MLS has a lot of work to do.