As one Major League Soccer franchise changed ownership groups Tuesday, league commissioner Don Garber said more change is on the way — though future developments should be expected in the form of expansion.
On the eve of the MLS All-Star Game, Clark Hunt and the Hunt Sports Group announced Tuesday morning that they had sold the Columbus Crew to Precourt Sports Adventures, a private investment firm managed by Anthony Precourt.
The move leaves the Hunt family with only one MLS team — FC Dallas — after it once owned three, including Kansas City, originally known as the Wiz, then the Wizards.
“Although we are very pleased to welcome Anthony to MLS, today is somewhat bittersweet for our family because of how much we love the Crew,” said Hunt, also the chairman and CEO of the Chiefs, in a news release.
After a ceremony at Wyandotte High School to unveil two new Futsal courts, Garber used the sale of the Crew as another example of the league’s growth. And he pointed to new ownership in the MLS as a sign of what’s to come.
“It’s been a long time from the day we had three owners owning all of our teams,” Garber said. “With the exception of (Houston), we have one team and one ownership group. That’s been the goal of this league since 2002.
“It’s a very big development for MLS soccer.”
And not the last of them.
The top domestic league in the United States plans to add New York City FC to the mix in 2015, giving the league 20 teams.
More expansion appears likely, Garber said Tuesday. He said the league’s owners planned to discuss the topic during meetings over the All-Star break.
The question, it seems, is no longer if expansion is on the horizon but rather when it will come.
“We believe the MLS will be bigger,” Garber said. “The driver of expansion is to grow the scale of our business — the overall size of our fan base (and) the geographical coverage of our league — so we can have more people following us. … But we have to go about it the right way.”
The growth of the MLS corresponds with the rebirth of soccer passion in Kansas City — a transformation about which Garber spoke highly during an interview with The Star last week. He reiterated that sentiment Tuesday while also stating his satisfaction in the week’s All-Star festivities in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
“It’s the biggest (All-Star Game) we’ve ever had,” said Garber, who raved about the rally Monday night, which finished with a Macklemore & Ryan Lewis concert at the Power & Light District.
“(Kansas City) is really a great, remarkable turnaround. It’s really one of the great shining lights in our league. I’ve said this before, and it’s not an exaggeration: It’s really one of the great sports stories in our industry.”