MLS the league for a 'new America', says Garber

Thu Dec 3, 2015 6:21pm EST
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By Rick Horrow

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Soccer has positioned itself as the sport's league for "a new America" and will soon be recognized as one of the best in the world, a bullish commissioner Don Garber told Reuters.

With the Columbus Crew set to host the Portland Timbers on Sunday in what will be the 20th MLS Cup, Garber painted a bright picture for a league that has gone from being a sporting niche to the mainstream in two decades.

"We've been around for a generation; the brand is very simple. We are the league for a new America," Garber boasted. "A country that is changing, that has become increasing global.

"It has shifting demographics that has our nation looking like, acting like, we are a country represented by every country from around the world. The league for a new America -- that's our brand."

When Garber left his position as senior vice-president of the National Football League to take over as MLS commissioner in 1999, the league was on a shaky financial footing.

After the contraction of the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny, MLS was left with just 10 teams. Under Garber's watch, however, the league has grown to 20 teams with deep pocketed investors lining up to get in on the action.

The MLS has gained worldwide respectability, developing homegrown talent through local academies while attracting some of the game's biggest names -- David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Steven Gerrard to name a few.

"When I first came into the league in 1999 ... there was a time we couldn't give our teams away," recalled Garber. "When the league was founded, there was this idea you could build a league around all those tens of millions of kids that play, but that ultimately is not really where our fan base is today.   Continued...

MLS commissioner Don Garber speaks about the state of the league at Google Offices. Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports