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In this May 29, 2018, file photo, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber speaks during an event to announce the addition of FC Cincinnati as an expansion team in Cincinnati. Garber says the MLS will look at expanding beyond 28 teams.John Minchillo/The Associated Press

Major League Soccer will look at expanding beyond 28 teams, said commissioner Don Garber in his state-of-the-league address on Friday, but a shift away from buying talent to producing and selling it will be key to future growth.

The MLS has long provided a cushy home for some of the game’s biggest names entering the final stages of their careers, from David Beckham to more recently Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Wayne Rooney (DC United).

But for Garber, the most notable transaction was one going the other way with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC selling Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich for an MLS record transfer fee of US$22-million.

Garber noted that MLS owners spend more than US$100-million annually on player development and the league is realizing the benefits of that investment, with academy players this season producing more goals and more assists than any other year.

At the same time Garber believes the MLS must balance that spending.

“We need to become more of a selling league,” Garber told a news conference ahead of the MLS Cup championship game in Atlanta on Saturday between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers.

“We all need to get used to the fact that, in the world of global soccer, players get sold.

“We have been buying for so long and, as we’ve gone through the analysis, it’s hard to justify that investment and the investment that we have to make in player development. We’ve got to have something that turns this model around, or else it’s going to be unsustainable.”

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