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Garber: MLS priority 'getting young guys who are at their prime'

Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

With a noted shift in DP policy at many MLS clubs over the past few years, commissioner Don Garber has chimed in on the league’s need for younger stars.

Speaking during halftime of Wednesday’s thrilling Eastern Conference final between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact, Garber praised younger, in their prime stars such as Sebastian Giovinco and Ignacio Piatti, stating that MLS needs more players like them.

“When you have Gerrard and [Frank] Lampard and Drogba in your league it adds a lot of profile. But I’m excited by guys like Sebastian Giovinco. I’m excited by Piatti — I think he’s one of the best players in the league.” said Garber. “I see Michael [Bradley] and Jozy [Altidore]. Getting young guys who are at their prime playing in our league is far more important than getting legendary players coming into our league at the end of their career. And I think we needed that a lot more [in the past]. I don’t think we need that as much now.”

Several aged superstars have left the league at the conclusion of their team’s campaigns. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard both announced their departures from the LA Galaxy and New York City FC respectively, with Didier Drogba potentially joining them now that the Impact have been eliminated from the playoffs.

Garber also stated that while signing older players may not stop completely, he anticipated the focus shifting from publicity and notoriety to genuine ability to help a team win.

“[Teams] used to sign them because they thought they would help sell tickets. And now it really matters if they’re going to help your team win.” Garber explained. “Because if your team wins, you have 36,000 people coming to your game. You don’t need to get it artificially. But obviously it’s been an honor to have those players in our league.”

49 comments
    • JAY83

      True but he is only 32 not 36 or 37. Second he was just playing for two of the best teams in the world and he would start for most teams in the world outside like 3-4. That said we still need to trend younger.

      Like

      • Old School

        By the time he, or Rooney (also publicly pandered to by Garber) come to MLS, they could very well be in that illustrious age range.

        Like

    • don Lamb

      What reality? During the last signing period there were something like 45 signings. I think only 5-6 of those were over 30 years old. Lodeiro, dos Santos, Giovinco, Piatti, Bradley, Altidore… There is room for a Drogba here and there. There have been too many in the past (including just this past year), but that is exactly what Garber is stating. Younger stars are clearly a trend.

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      • don Lamb

        There are lots of even younger players that are lesser known that teams are prioritizing, too. Acosta in DC, Accam in Chicago, Adi in Portland, Alberg and Bedoya in Philly, Gruezo in Dallas, etc. etc. etc. are in their prime or not even there yet. That list could go on much longer. The problem is that the 5-6 Gerrards and Lampards get all of the notoriety, so that is all most people see.

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      • Old School

        “Of course we follow Bastian’s situation. We would welcome Bastian with open arms. He would be a leader for our many young players.”

        “We would love players like Wayne Rooney, and those who have been able to be really successful at the highest level, to be thinking about Major League Soccer.

        “Today, that’s perhaps in their-30s and maybe, sometime in the future, that’s in their mid-20s.”

        That reality. Garber even acknowledges their targets are in their 30’s (most often in their mid-30’s). Sure, it’s nice to reference “45 signings” (without providing any names) but the overall stigma is earned when each and every time Garber has a platform he pleas with these types of players, over-the-hill players, to consider MLS.

        Giovinco was a fantastic step, no doubt, and I/along with most MLS fans would love to see more of it. I understand it’s not immediate and no one is making claims it will be, but when your league leader is routinely pandering to players in their mid-30’s it earns it’s retirement reputation.

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      • don Lamb

        You have an interesting fascination/obsession with sources. It is a fact that the vast majority of recent signings have been players below 30 years of age. A significant number of them have been players 23 and younger. If you want to go back and look at all of the signings that were made heading into this MLS season, that is exactly what you will find. Forgive me for not having the exact numbers off the top of my head.

        Just because Don Garber opens the door for a team to sign a 32 year old Schweinsteiger or a 36 year old Ibra doesn’t mean that those types of signings are the norm. You do realize that there are something like 500 players in the league, right? There is room for a handful of formerly world class guys who might be past their prime.

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      • Old School

        Your “reality” is completely missing the forest for the trees.

        Yea, that’s an MLS reality. Not “my” reality. I have no stake in the proceedings or outcome.

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      • Pirithous

        Don — it seems pretty important not just to consider the number of signings, but the money as well. Every Schweinsteiger, Zlatan, and Rooney soaks up an awful lot of cash compared to the other (more obscure and cheaper) signings. It is hard to take Garber seriously when he talks about younger talent but sends his truckload of cash to players who are thinking of it as a retirement league.

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      • don Lamb

        Your perspective of the MLS reality is skewed then. The league continues to evolve rapidly. Evidently, this evolution is happening at a rate that you are finding difficult to keep up with.

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      • don Lamb

        Pirithous – Who are we to tell ownership how much a player is worth to them? It’s not Garber spending the money. Teams make their own decisions based on what they think is best for them. And they are restricted by a salary cap, so their decisions will play out in the standings for all to see. There are several teams that do not even consider these types of signings, which makes these claims of MLS being a retirement league all the more ridiculous.

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      • Old School

        Evidently, this evolution is happening at a rate that you are finding difficult to keep up with.

        An evolution that will still fail to become a “to be one of the top Leagues in the world by 2022” as Don Garber claims, but still selling that snake oil to gullible people who are more than happy to polish a turd.

        Like

      • don Lamb

        Would you rather us just not have a pro league since we are not going to become a top league over night? Should we just be happy to watch the top leagues on tv? You’re right, why try to build something great when it’s going to take a lot of hard work, time, and investment. Let’s just be little whiny babies and sulk about how we cannot be one of the best. Let’s just sit here and be losers and let the rest of the world do it better.

        If you took that promise of 2022 literally, then you are the gullible one. I, for one, am enjoying the ride, and I sure as hell will be enjoying it WHEN we do get to the top. It’s not going to be in 2022, but we will be up there with the best one day. I’m sure you and your loser mentality will be happy to jump on the train at that point.

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      • Old School

        Would you rather us just not have a pro league since we are not going to become a top league over night?

        I don’t mind the usual jousting on SBI, but your hyperbole is out of control and far too rampant on this thread and looks like an emotional wreck (in direct responses to my posts). Take a deep breath and try again later when you’re less stressed.

        You can thank me later.

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      • don Lamb

        Okay, great. I’ll take your lack of a rebuttal as a forfeit. Loser

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      • Old School

        Nothing says “victory” like ending a post calling someone else: “Loser.” but thanks for confirming my observation of your emotional status.

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      • MTF

        Don’t mind Old School, don Lamb. He’s like this with everyone on this website. He’s the authority on everything soccer and he lives to pick apart your posts or dispute your opinions with his snark and sarcasm. You should count yourself fortunate to get into a ‘verbal jousting’ duel with him here; I assume you are a regular contributor to these comments sections, otherwise you wouldn’t be worthy of his time and keystrokes.

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      • don Lamb

        haha — thanks buddy. Yes, I am familiar with OS, and have been posting here for a long time. Although I pick my battles, I appreciate the opportunity to show him how wrong he is. He never really addressed the fact that his view of MLS as a retirement league is very skewed/outdated — anybody really paying attention can see that the league has been prioritizing more younger signings. When he started calling out my emotions, I knew he was completely out of his league. cheers

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  • Dr. Offside

    What ever happened to the idea that at least one of MLS’s goals was to develop American players? And how many “young stars” are going to come to a league where average salaries are lower than League Two in England? And is paying one or two players many times the average wage a sustainable way to build winning teams?

    Like

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      What could possibly make you think that isn’t a goal still? MLS Cup will feature Bradley, Altidore, Morris, Roldan. Because some of the big city teams didn’t follow that path as much, doesn’t mean that Dallas hasn’t crushed it getting players through their academy, others will follow success.

      Success didn’t follow hiring bad players like Lampard and Gerrard.

      Is paying one or two many times the average wage a sustainable way to build a winning team?
      We will see, but both of these teams in the final, who have been very successful, did. Seattle wasn’t successful until they did hire Lodeiro ( obviously Schmetzer, ex-young American homegrown Sounder, contributed greatly to the success too)

      Like

    • Old School

      According to Garber back in 2012, it was:

      …we want to be a key driver of the U.S. national team. At the end of the day, we’ve got a primary role of creating a soccer nation in our country and having teams that matter in the community. And if while we’re doing that, we can help grow our national team, then I think that’s going to be a great byproduct.

      Then again, Garber’s responsibility is to create a circus-like atmosphere he deems worthy of promoting ratings. From the same interview:

      I want to see high-quality soccer. I want to have that product drive television ratings. I want to see it create the kind of environment and fan connection that we have here in Portland.

      There’s no denying the key revenue source for leagues is TV ratings/TV contracts. I don’t fault him for having this objective, but it directly contrasts with his last quote in the article, because it’s clear they’re still pushing (or at least aiding) the initiative of “hiring” 36+ year olds on their last league with the hopes of some success on the pitch and a lot more marketing off of it.

      It reminds me of Garber’s response in 2014 to Jurgen’s critical assessment of Dempsey, Bradley, and Altidore returning to MLS and the lack-of-quality the league offers for his “top” players:

      “To have a national team coach saying that signing with our league is not going to be good for their careers, and not good for their prospects with the national team, is incredibly damaging to our league.”

      Unfortunately for Garber, Jurgen wasn’t the only national team manager with this assessment before those statements or since those statements. If Garber really wants that stigma to be absolved, he really needs to stick to the objective of building a league of younger players with skill, instead of older players with stories.

      Until he does that, it’s just more hollow words coming from a snake oil salesman.

      Like

      • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

        Old S

        I don’t really understand what you want The Don to do. Is he supposed to pass laws making sure teams aren’t idiots hiring bad soccer players?
        When LA signed Gerrard and NYCFC signs Lampard/Pirlo, THEY did so. People like me knew they were idiots, The Don might have too.

        But the teams did it. Don G didn’t say do this.

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  • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

    As much as the whiners would like to believe that Don Gerber is a dictator with all power and failing miserably…..only one thing will cause this to happen and that is success. Success on the field which translates to money success.

    As our hero, Don G said, that is happening now. We will see how the teams respond.
    Free markets, in a very controlled league, will prevail.

    The X Factor is jersey sales, etc, as exciting as Roldan has been for the Sounders, I don’t see millions of jerseys sold there. Probably half the people who read this will have to look up who he is.

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    • Old School

      The X Factor is jersey sales.

      According to what metric?

      Any additional revenue is vital for a league that is only making money off adding franchises, but if you’re implication is that jersey sales are the x-factor you’re forgetting/or not acknowledging: most of the revenue from it goes to the Adidas (the manufacturer) per their sponsorship deal and additional revenue generated is largely shared by various shipping companies.

      Collateral income is nice, but is incredibly minuscule in comparison to metrics that actually matter. The more MLS focuses on locating, developing and employing “exciting” players who are south of 30 the more eyes will view the league matches, which in turn, the more the value of TV packages will be driven upward.

      If MLS wants to become a “destination league” as the snake oil salesman has claimed, it first needs to abort becoming a “retirement destination league” initiative. You believing jersey sales are an X-factor is a stark reminder why Garber/the league still targets has-beens.

      Like

      • Yevgeniy

        MLS is certainly not “only making money off adding franchises”. Current revenues outside of expansion fees are in the range of $500-600mm per year and have now exceeded Eredivisie. Ticket revenues alone are closing in on $200mm

        Liked by 1 person

      • don Lamb

        OS – see my comment above. You are clearly being blinded by the handful of signings in the mold of Gerrard and Lampard. The overwhelming majority of new signings in the league are under 30.

        Like

      • Old School

        MLS is certainly not “only making money off adding franchises”. Current revenues outside of expansion fees are in the range of $500-600mm per year and have now exceeded Eredivisie. Ticket revenues alone are closing in on $200mm

        Do you have any links for this? I’m not questioning your statement, but I’d like to read up on the details of these numbers for greater perspective.

        Like

      • Yevgeniy

        Thanks for your seemingly genuine interest Old School. I don’t have any articles handy, but very roughly it’s

        – 7 million tickets at $25-$30 average. Yes, some are less/free, but some are corporate boxes at a lot more. ~$200mm
        – TV contract in US alone is $90mm and MLS gets ~$65mm of that. Add Canada and add international. Probably gets you to the area of $100mm
        – League sponsorship – $100mm+. This I know from a reliable source, but you can also figure it yourself. $25mm from Adidas, $10mm from Audi and Heineken
        – Individual team shirt sponsors – ~$60mm (based $3mm average)
        – Other stuff – game day revenues, team sponsorships, etc., etc.

        Also, look at this. Ties out to roughly $600mm

        https://www.statista.com/statistics/477857/team-revenue-of-mls-soccer-teams/

        Like

      • Old School

        Awesome info, Yevgeniy. I’ll take a closer look into that rabbit hole then. Appreciate the link and facts you provided.

        Like

      • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

        I don’t disagree with you Old S

        But I don’t see how Don G is doing it. And second, money drives it all, so don’t act like jersey sales, etc don’t play a part.
        Believe it or not, teams pay less than they can afford and lose….and then are happy they did it because? Because they made money. In this case they pay more than they should, because the player is no good, but make it back with Beckham-type jersey sales.

        Like

  • Adam M.

    I’d like the league to stop doing the following type of deal: Older player signs in January or March on 18 month deal starting in July or August That’s a bad deal. You don’t know what you are getting when the player shows up months later, the team can’t plan for a full season when a “big” player is expected midseason, and if the player gets injured at all they may not play in MLS very much. I’d prefer no deals for million-dollar plus players unless they start at the beginning of the MLS season, but short of that the league should insist on deals that include at least 2 full seasons. If they do that, and the player is still productive, then I don’t care how old they are.

    Like

    • don Lamb

      That has definitely become a priority, but a good club should balance those two forms of player acquisition.

      Like

      • HTM

        Results have been extremely underwhelming….

        I know the Dynamo academy has been around 10 years now…. I don’t know that the Dynamo Academy has one product in the league right now….. (not counting Tyler Deric because he was like 17 when the academy came about)

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      • don Lamb

        Yeah, the Dynamo have been woeful when it comes to producing talent, but teams like Dallas, LA, NYRB, and Seattle have been much better. I think Houston just retooled some things, so hopefully they start producing. As a league there are some products starting to come up for sure — FCD has signed three 15 year olds in the past couple of months. The teams that will be the most successful are the ones who can produce homegrown talent (cheap cap hit) and sign the right foreign/veteran players.

        Like

  • Concorde

    I think Frank Lampard was one of the better players in MLS this year, and Drogba made most MLS defenders look amateur last year at 36 yrs old or whatever. I don’t think Garber will say no, nor should he, if Ronaldo tries to retire in MLS in a few years. It’s more fun when clubs make their own decisions, and add to the heterogeneity. In fact, if what he is saying is true, that fans come for the quality on the field (we’ve been saying this for many years now) Garber should stop talking, make a little more money available to teams, and let the free market work it’s magic.

    Like

    • Old School

      I think Frank Lampard was one of the better players in MLS this year, and Drogba made most MLS defenders look amateur last year at 36 yrs old or whatever.

      Not exactly a ringing endorsement or advertisement for your league. From a fans perspective, national team manager’s perspective, or general perception across the soccer landscape.

      Like

    • don Lamb

      Why is that the case? A healthy Lampard or a healthy Drogba would be a serious boost to 99% of the teams in the world. Of course there is going to be the risk of declining health with players this age, but there is quite a bit on on-field payoff, too. These signings should not be as common or as relied upon as they have been, but having a few big name formerly world class players that are past their prime is still good for the league.

      Like

    • Old School

      Why is that the case? A healthy Lampard or a healthy Drogba would be a serious boost to 99% of the teams in the world.

      Let’s see what the transfer/open market says about that claim. I’m leaning towards it having the complete opposite percentage.

      Like

      • don Lamb

        I didn’t say that 99% of the teams in the world could afford them! c’mon man

        Like

      • Old School

        Already backing off your hyperbolic statement I see. It was ridiculous, so I don’t fault you for coming to your senses.

        However, if you want to double down, I never made claim about any club having the capacity to “afford” (nor did you) – let’s not change the statement suddenly. Sticking to exactly what you said, and my response as a result: If they would truly be “a serious boost to 99% of the teams in the world.” than I expect to see that reflected in the open market…where they’ll cost no transfer fee.

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      • don Lamb

        Just because you ridiculously misinterpreted my statement does not mean that my clarification is backing off. It is a fact that 99% (I will double down and say more than 99%) of the teams in the world would benefit greatly from having a healthy/old version of Drogba or Lampard on their team. That is not saying that they would have the resources to sign them. For heaven’s sake, those guys dominated the league when they were healthy in MLS, and they were both VERY productive perhaps the best league in the world directly before coming to MLS. These players command a massive wage, and there are not many teams in the world with the resources to afford them. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t LOVE to have those types of players.

        Like

      • Old School

        I think Frank Lampard was one of the better players in MLS this year, and Drogba made most MLS defenders look amateur last year at 36 yrs old or whatever.

        Not exactly a ringing endorsement or advertisement for your league.

        Why is that the case? A healthy Lampard or a healthy Drogba would be a serious boost to 99% of the teams in the world.

        Let’s see what the transfer/open market says about that claim.

        I didn’t say that 99% of the teams in the world could afford them! c’mon man (No one did, in fact)

        No one misinterpreted anything. You made an embarrassing comment insinuating “99% of the teams around the world” would receive a “serious boost” and my response was simply: let’s see if the market agrees. Obviously for such high praise, there should be a laundry list of clubs looking to sign these 38 year olds. After all, who doesn’t want a “serious boost” without having to pay a transfer fee.

        …but of course, we know there won’t be. It has nothing to do with “resources”, but rather 38 year old’s don’t offer a “serious boost” to “99% of the teams around the world” because they’re 38-freakin’-years-old. Hence (connecting the dots for you) the original statement which got your panties in a bunch: Not exactly a ringing endorsement or advertisement for your league.

        Your statement was hyperbolic, for no apparent reason, and your doubling down was equally ridiculous. No one misinterpreted a simplistic and misguided statement. It wasn’t anywhere near profound enough to do so.

        Like

      • don Lamb

        The market is based on financial things as much as it based on talent. So, of course not very many clubs in the world would be in the market for a Drogba or Lampard even though most of them would like to have them. You do realize that Drogba was playing and producing for Chelsea and Lampard was playing and producing for Manchester City before they came to MLS. How would it make MLS look bad if they went from producing in the EPL to being a dominant player in MLS (when healthy)? It’s a simple equation really. And I made that stipulation about health in the original post, so don’t move the goal posts here.

        Like

      • Old School

        The market is based on financial things as much as it based on talent. So, of course not very many clubs in the world would be in the market for a Drogba or Lampard even though most of them would like to have them.

        That’s a lot of words to say: “You’re right.” but based on your post above you don’t appear to be in a mood of concession.

        Like

      • don Lamb

        Just because they can’t afford them doesn’t mean that they would not make that team better. Are you suggesting that since not many can afford a Mercedes Benz, not many people would like to own one? Doesn’t sound like you understand the argument. It has nothing to do with the marker because I am not referring to finances at all. I am just saying that players of Drogba and Lampard’s quality would make most teams in the world better if those players are healthy. It has nothing to do with what the market because I am only talking about the players’ quality (when healthy), not their value.

        Like

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