MLS Mulls Expansion for 2005

Times Staff Writer

Major League Soccer is ready to expand, but it probably won’t until 2005, Commissioner Don Garber said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Sixth Honda Symposium in Beverly Hills, Garber said the league is getting closer to an agreement with Jorge Vergara for a Chivas USA expansion team.

Vergara owns Chivas de Guadalajara of Mexico’s first division -- arguably the country’s most popular club -- and has been eager to bring the Chivas name to the U.S.

Garber said San Diego and Houston are targeted as expansion cities for Chivas, but that MLS does not want to put a franchise in Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.


“We’ve got some time to work out details so we’re looking at 2005 as more of a realistic time frame,” Garber said.

Garber said Cleveland, because it has a prospective owner who wants to build a soccer-specific stadium, is another top candidate for expansion. Oklahoma City, Rochester, N.Y., Philadelphia and Seattle are others.

Club America in MLS?

In addition to Chivas, Mexico’s Club America is apparently interested in owning a team in MLS.

Garber, however, would not comment on preliminary talks MLS officials have had with representatives from that team.

World Cup Qualifying

Chuck Blazer, CONCACAF’s general secretary, said the confederation expects to play a team from Asia for a possible fourth berth to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, although a final decision is still to come.

The region, which represents North and Central America and the Caribbean, has been granted 3 1/2 spots, which puts the fourth qualifying team into a playoff.


The issue became clouded when FIFA took away Oceania’s automatic berth, but soccer’s governing body has yet to decide what to do.

Blazer said the United States and the confederation’s top five qualifiers from 2002 will not begin qualification for 2006 until Feb. 18. The region’s lowest-seeded 22 teams will begin the process on Jan. 17/18 and Jan. 21, the first two qualification dates.

Balboa Honored

Marcelo Balboa, who made 128 international appearances for the U.S. before retiring, was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Honda Symposium.


“It’s a little weird for me as I sat there listening to people thanking me for what I’ve done,” Balboa said. “Because to me, all I’ve done all these years is something I’ve enjoyed and loved.”

English Boycott?

England players, who early on Wednesday threatened to boycott Saturday’s Euro 2004 qualifying match against Turkey because defender Rio Ferdinand was left off the roster, withdrew their plan later in the day.

Ferdinand was kept off the team by the Football Assn. for failing to take a random drug test last month. Players were angry because they said they believed Ferdinand was punished without due process.


Times wire services contributed to this report.