MLS thriving decade after barely hanging on

TIM BOOTH AP Sports Writer Published:

Don Garber was still in the infancy of his tenure as commissioner of Major League Soccer when the league faced legitimate uncertainty about its future and was forced to fold two underperforming franchises.

That was 10 years, nine new franchises and 13 new or renovated soccer stadiums ago.

For the first time in recent years, the biggest story entering the MLS season isn't expansion, even though the league will welcome its 19th franchise with Montreal becoming the third Canadian member of the MLS this year. Instead, it's acknowledging a decade of successes.

Since that troubled 2002 season, the league has successfully added teams and raised the talent level to where the quality of play is gaining international respect.