MLS Aces Interview with Mark Kastner

This week of the offseason I bring you another interview. This week my interview is with a co-host from the Total MLS podcast, Mark Kastner. Mark at first was surprised that I wanted to interview him but as a fan of the Total MLS podcast I wanted to see his opinion of some of the biggest occurrences in MLS. Mark was great so kind and helpful in this process and would love to work with him in the future again. I hope you guys enjoy the interview with Mr. Mark Kastner.

MLS ACES: Mr. Kastner you are an avid MLS fan and that is apparent through your Twitter account and of course your work with Total MLS. What about the league really attracts you to it?

MK: What first drawn me into the league was it's accessibility. I grew up a soccer fan, but it was always "over there." MLS was a competitive, interesting soccer league in my backyard. After that, I found that MLS had compelling and interesting play and story-lines.

MLS ACES: Speaking of Total MLS, for those of you who don't know, it is a highly entertaining and successful podcast that mainly focuses on MLS and the U.S. Men`s National Team. How did this idea for the Total MLS podcast/website come about?

MK: The website was an idea that our founding editor Dustyn Richardson had in 2010. He thought that there was a space in the MLS landscape for a website that offered the voice of fans of the league. I came on in 2015. Dustyn and I were talking one day and just decided to do a podcast.

MLS ACES: You are a co-host of the Total MLS podcast with your friend Dustyn Richardson. How would you describe the opportunity that you have being able to run a successful podcast with such a close friend?

MK: It's really fun. I don't think we'd be doing anything we were doing if we didn't enjoy it first and foremost.

MLS ACES: Total MLS is a great podcast and website. You have had big time guests on your podcast including Laura Armstrong, Matt Pentz, Cristian Roldan, and Justin Morrow. How did you get to the point that you are at now with the show? And for those out there reading this who may be interested in MLS and possibly running a podcast/blog what advice would you give them?

MK: Well, there wasn't a vision or huge plan when we started. We just decided to record every week and that's ended up working out pretty well for us. We keep doing it, and always find ways to make it better. As for advice, I would say that someone should try to find a way to stand out from a very crowded and noisy field.

MLS ACES: 2016 was an interesting year in MLS. The Seattle Sounders win MLS Cup after being at the bottom of the table midway through the season. We saw an amazing rookie class take over the league. Teams like Colorado and Philadelphia had overall surprising seasons. What is your view of this most recent season? What was your favorite memory of this past season?

MK: This has been my favorite season in recent memory. You touched on a few, but this season had so many interesting and compelling stories... both on and off the field. As for a favorite memory, I think it's pretty remarkable that two hometown guys like Jordan Morris and Brian Schmetzer won an MLS Cup after going through so much adversity.

MLS ACES: When looking at the league as a whole, are you happy where it is globally? Do you see the league moving in the right direction?

MK: I think so. You see a lot of teams like FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls focusing on developing their academy. You see a lot of National Team players coming home to play in the league, as well as guys from the league becoming prominent players for the National Team, like Gyasi Zardes.

MLS ACES: With the recent occurrences in the NASL and USL how do you things will shape out? How do you think the occurrences in NASL and USL will effect MLS?

MK: I'm not too sure. There's a lot of unknown factors up in the air right now, but it's certainly going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.

MLS ACES: The final topic I want to ask you about is expansion. In 2017 we will see Atlanta United and Minnesota United enter the league as teams 21 and 22. First, how do you view the recent roster moves made by both Atlanta and Minnesota?

MK: I've been nothing but impressed with what Atlanta has done. Not only are they signing DPs who are young and exciting, they're also investing in their academy and already signing talented Homegrown Players. It seems like Minnesota United are playing their cards closer to their chest. As of right now, they haven't made any signing that moves the needle for me, but I'm sure they have a plan for success.

MLS ACES: As previously stated, Minnesota and Atlanta are teams 21 and 22. There have been reports of Don Garber wanting to bring the league to 26, 28, possibly 30 teams. Where would you want to see an expansion team next and in your opinion is there a point where there are too many teams?

MK: I think 28 feels like the right number, as of now. But I wasn't so sure a few years ago that 24 felt right! So, that's just a long way of saying I don't know. I think there's a couple of markets who have expressed interest in MLS, and have taken all the necessary steps to show that they could be successful. Namely, Sacramento.

MLS ACES: One of the argument for too many teams is that the quality of player will decrease. The talent of MLS rosters will be stretched too thin. I am on the fence about this topic personally. How do you view that argument and if true is there a way to fix it by still having possibly 30 teams?

MK: While I understand and can relate to some points that this particular argument makes, I do not reach the same conclusion that it does. My general response to this sort of argument is this: MLS is a much better league than it was 5 years ago and it had a few less teams then as it does now. So, as long as MLS is as committed to developing players as they are to expansion, then I think things will be okay.

Once again I want to thank Mark for being so kind and being a part of this interview process. For all of you who want to hear more from Mark go and subscribe to the Total MLS podcast on iTunes and follow them on Twitter at @TotalMLS. If you want to hear from Mark at a more personal level you can go and follow him on Twitter @mkstnr.