NEW YORK (Tuesday, January 8, 2002) - Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced today that the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion will immediately cease operations. The decision to close both teams was made unanimously by the MLS Board of Governors, after a comprehensive strategic review of the League's operations.
The League also announced that it is in continuing negotiations with several entities to invest in MLS and acquire the operating rights of the Dallas Burn and San Jose Earthquakes. An announcement is intended in both markets prior to the beginning of the season.
Additionally, the League announced that the Anschutz Entertainment Group has exercised its option to become the Investor-Operator of D.C. United. When these transactions are completed, the League will for the first time have an Investor-Operator for every MLS team.
Finally, the League has made significant changes to its operating relationship with its teams. These adjustments will provide enhanced revenue opportunities at the local level by allowing teams to retain a greater share of revenue from ticket sales, local sponsorship and television.
These changes follow the announcement on December 6, 2001 that MLS investors committed to funding and operating the league for the next five years, through the 2006 season. The six-year old League also announced last week a five-year extension of its broadcast agreement with ABC and ESPN to televise a significant schedule of MLS games. At the same time, the League announced the formation of a new marketing and production company which purchased the rights to the 2002 World Cup, 2003 Women's World Cup and the 2006 World Cup and an agreement with ABC and ESPN to broadcast all three of these World Cup tournaments in the United States (English language).
"Our investors have made a number of strategic decisions that will better position MLS in the short and long term," Commissioner Garber said. "These decisions took many months to finalize and were enormously complex and involved, but are necessary to ensure the future success of the League. While we are reducing the number of teams by two for now, the long-term funding commitment, media commitments, new investment and the fact that all teams will have Investor-Operators will make MLS a stronger and more viable league going forward."
The MLS Board of Governors has determined that all teams must have an Investor-Operator to manage and fund local operations. The League and Board of Governors thoroughly evaluated all teams and markets, based on their ability to provide value to the league and the sport overall for the long-term. Factors that were considered in the decision-making process included ownership status, past market performance, market potential, and the soccer appropriateness of the local stadium.
"The decision to leave both cities for the 2002 MLS Season was extremely difficult," said MLS Commissioner Garber. "I can assure all of our fans that we worked tirelessly to find a plan that would have allowed us to remain in both markets. We simply could not find a solution that was economically feasible at this time and we hope to return to the State of Florida when the League expands in future years."
Major League Soccer's investors include Philip Anschutz of Denver, the Hunt family of Dallas, the Kraft family of Boston, Kenneth Horowitz, Alan Rothenberg and the global advertising agency, Dentsu. The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is the Investor-Operator of the Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Los Angeles Galaxy, and the MetroStars. The Hunt family is the Investor-Operator of the Columbus Crew and Kansas City Wizards. The Kraft family is the Investor-Operator of the New England Revolution. The additional shareholders are investors in the entire League, but do not have operating rights to a specific team.
The deciding factor for not continuing operations of the Tampa Bay Mutiny is the fact that the team has not had an investor-operator since it began play in 1996. The Mutiny have been operated and funded by the League Office since its inception.
In Miami, the MLS Board of Governors, along with Investor-Operator Ken Horowitz, who founded the Miami Fusion as an expansion team in 1998, have determined that the local market is not capable at this time of providing the support necessary to effectively sustain a Major League Soccer team. Both the League and the team worked throughout the 2001 season to bolster the team's support from the local community. Even with an Eastern Conference Championship and increases at the gate, the team remained among the lowest in League average attendance, corporate support and overall revenues.
Mr. Horowitz will remain an investor in the League, with an option of returning as an operator in South Florida or an expansion market.
"There are few owners in professional sports who dedicated themselves to their team as Ken Horowitz did the Fusion," said MLS Investor-Operator, Lamar Hunt. "He tried so hard to make it work in South Florida and all of us in Major League Soccer greatly appreciate his passion and commitment to the game."
"Ken Horowitz contributed so much to the League and the sport in South Florida," added MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "I know the pain and sorrow he feels to no longer be associated with the Fusion. He gave every effort over the past years to create a team that represented the community with pride, personality and public service."
MLS will feature a 10-team, two conference alignment for the 2002 season. The Eastern Conference will consist of the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, the MetroStars and the New England Revolution. The Western Conference makeup will consist of the Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy and defending MLS Cup champion San Jose Earthquakes.
MLS Will Conduct Allocation/Dispersal Drafts of all Tampa and Miami Players
In conjunction with this announcement, MLS will conduct a Dispersal Draft of the Tampa Bay and Miami rosters on Friday, January, 11. All former Fusion and Mutiny players will be placed into a Dispersal Draft pool, along with all first round picks in the 2002 SuperDraft held by Miami and Tampa Bay. All lower 2002 SuperDraft picks held by these teams (other than picks they may have previously traded away) will be eliminated, including any picks for which the teams had traded.
Immediately prior to the Dispersal Draft, teams due allocations for the 2002 season will participate in an Allocation Draft and may select any one player/pick on the Dispersal Draft list per allocation.
The MLS Competition Committee has approved the allocations and selection order for those allocations as follows: Colorado (failure to make the 2001 MLS Cup Playoffs); New England (failure to make the MLS Playoffs); D.C. United (failure to make the MLS Playoffs); Colorado (Unused 2001 allocation); New England (loss of Leonel Alvarez and Mauricio Wright); New England (loss of William Sunsing); Dallas (retirement of Lubos Kubik); Los Angeles (loss of Luis Hernandez); and San Jose (unused 2001 allocation).
2002 MLS Dispersal Draft Timeline
Friday, January 11, 2002
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
MLS Waiver Date - All teams in compliance with roster rules
Thursday, January 17, 2002
MLS Waiver Draft
Immediately following the Allocation Draft, the League will conduct the Dispersal Draft. The draft order is based on the natural SuperDraft order based on final 2001 standings:
1. Colorado Rapids
2. New England Revolution
3. D.C. United
4. Kansas City Wizards
5. Dallas Burn
7. Columbus Crew
8. Chicago Fire
9. Los Angeles Galaxy
10. San Jose Earthquakes
Further details of the Allocation/Dispersal Draft and the 2002 Rules of Competition will be released later this week.
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer features many top stars from the United States and around the world, and is America's only Division I men's outdoor professional soccer league. For the latest headlines and official information on MLS, log onto www.MLSnet.com.