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Don Garber insists MLS will be one of world’s best leagues in 10 years or less


Don Garber still stands by his claim that MLS will be one of the top leagues in the world by 2022, and the attendance and TV numbers from 2015 seem to back up his stance.

In an interview with Sky Sports News HQ, Garber addressed the state of MLS and how much it has grown in just 20 seasons since its inception. He said the growth of the league and fanbase has been dramatic, and it is only expected to rise.

“Most people don’t think of our country as a soccer nation,” Garber said. “Our goal was to make America a soccer nation, to get people to grow up and want to be fans of their local MLS team, support their national team, and here we are averaging almost 22,000 fans a game.

“We’ve had tons of sell-outs and 15 soccer stadiums are being built. We are a league on the rise and that speaks of how great our country is and how supportive it is of the sport.”

The support Garber mentions is not only coming from those who attend in person but also those who watch at home.

Viewership and attendance numbers support Garber’s claim that the league is improving not only year to year but also in 2015 alone.

In the month of August, three MLS games were aired on ESPN instead of ESPN2, and hundreds of thousands more people tuned in to watch. For example, the LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders match garnered 549,000 eyes and 183,000 people watched on ESPN Deportes, combining for a total of 732,000 viewers.

As a comparison, MLS was averaging 283,00 viewers per game earlier this season in May. Mays figures were already an 18 percent increase to the number of viewers from games aired on all ESPN networks in 2014.

“We had 65,000 people last weekend at a Portland-Seattle game,” Garber added about the high attendance numbers. “Our New York City team — that is owned by the folks over at Manchester City — is averaging over 30,000 fans a game. Orlando average over 30,000 fans a game, too. So from an on-field perspective there are great signs.”

Garber said one demographic MLS is trying to appeal to is the 18-35 age group, but women are also a huge part the league’s success. According to Sky Sports, 37 percent of an MLS crowd, on average, consists on female support. Garber said that lots of women are involved with the sport, whether they played in school or just supported since they were young, so the statistic does not surprise him.

“The youngest percentage of our fanbase that are millennials is higher than any other league,” Garber said. “Research in the United States has said that the 18-35 group, their second favorite sport after the NFL is professional soccer.

“That speaks to what the opportunity is. It allows us to invest more in our players and our facilities, it allows us to have that energy to think about 20 years, 20 teams. Imagine what our league will look like 20 years from now or 50 years when we’ll still be relatively young in the lifespan of a professional sport. So it’s very empowering.”

Garber also pointed to the improved academy systems as a sign of growth. FC Dallas had five Homegrown signings lace up in Sunday’s 3-0 win against the Columbus Crew, and the league commissioner thinks that that is a sign of just how popular the sport has become. He said the academy is only just three years old, but the fact that a team can develop and field five professionals is a remarkable feat.

With attendance numbers high, TV viewership on the rise, high-profile players entering the league and young, promising talent being developed every year, Garber thinks MLS is well on its way to its goal set for 2022, with him saying: “I believe without doubt we will.”

“When you guys had the LA Galaxy-New York City game and Steven Gerrard came on and said it will be one of the best leagues in the world within 10 years, we didn’t feed him that,” Garber added. “Think of the soccer movement, and all that we’re doing to invest in players and facilities, and becoming a league of choice for guys like Sebastian Giovinco.

“I do believe in 10 years’ time or less, people will think of us like Serie A, La Liga, and hopefully the way they think about the Premier League. If we continue to do things right and stay to our plan.”


  1. zero championships (since 2005) in concacaf = mediocre league!

    Garber focus regional dominances or the Americas, first!

  2. Like many businesses, MLS is undergoing something of a mid-life crisis.

    The original idea, or perhaps one of the original ideas, was to create an American soccer league, a league of and for Americans. The US had tried, earlier, to import soccer players and soccer teams to form a soccer league. In doing so, it had copied many foreign practices, including the absence of any sort of salary cap or measures to ensure parity among teams. None of these earlier efforts were judged to be successful.
    Now we are seeing, within the league and among some fans, an urge to return to these earlier methods. In various ways, MLS teams are working around spending limits and using the extra money to import foreign players. The old emphasis on parity seems to be fading. And some fans welcome the arrival of more foreigners, in the name of better quality or whatever. (In truth, we have always had more than our share of soccer snobs who can imagine Americans playing effective soccer.)

    Is this a good development? I doubt it. For one thing, MLS’ efforts to create parity represented a vast improvement over nearly all other leagues — which resemble more Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs than a truly competitive league. And I suspect that Americans generally are not really likely to embrace teams that are dominated by foreigners. ( I know, I know, there are some very vocal folks who will pay a huge sum to watch an aging Frank Lampard but who would never pay anything to watch a competitive match among Americans. But for all their loud complaints, those folks are still a tiny minority.)
    If we want to see soccer prosper in the US , in the way football, basketball and baseball prosper, the original MLS method is still the best approach — a competitive league populated largely by American players.
    What needs to happen and what Garber neglects is to create the same sort of broad infrastructure that the other major sports have. The NFL, NBA and MLB benefit from the fact that nearly all Americans can and do attend live games in their sports wherever they live. Each of these league is but the tip of a large iceberg of professional and semi-professional (including the NCAA) leagues. Until soccer can provide that same sort of opportunity for most Americans — attending a professional or semi-professional soccer match at a reasonably high-level of quality, soccer will remain very small beer in the US sports world. Therefore, besides growing MLS, US soccer needs to be building the other professional and semi-professional leagues — expanding them, rationalizing their organizations and methods and raising the standard of play.

  3. “I do believe in 10 years’ time or less, people will think of us like Serie A, La Liga, and hopefully the way they think about the Premier League. If we continue to do things right and stay to our plan.”

    “Can I also mention that I suffer from a serious crack habit?”

  4. Some guy pointing out top 50 players in the world.
    MLS could have zero and still be the best league. Most likely will be true.

    Another pointing out how much the EPL is paying in salaries, like it is efficient at all. Yeah those English players that can’t even make the Nat team aren’t over paid.

    Don’t worry about it. The quality will go through the roof for many reasons. The other leagues will not change one iota.

    Whether you are talking two years, five years or ten years. This will always be true until MLS is the top league.

    • why won’t the other leagues change? you mean that the people running successful, multi-billion dollar aren’t bright enough to adjust to market forces? sure….

      Players go for a mix of money, prestige, culture and quality of life. If it were just money alone, they would all be playing in China or Middle East. I like the target, but ambiguity is his friend. Top 5 league in 10 years – no, Top 10 league in 10 years…MAYBE. MLS should focus on competing with Liga MX and winning CONCACAF Champions League (and getting invited to Copa Libertadores – like Liga MX). Do you know how deep LIga MX squads are? DO you know that their rating are about 1 million a game in the US while MLS is about 240,000 a game in the US. In Liga MX’s secondary market (MLS’s main market, Liga MX gets 4 times the ratings).

      MLS should focus on their neighbor rather than Europe. Beat Liga MX in quality, MLS would probably be the 3rd best league in the Americas and eventually knock on Brazil’s and Argentina’s league doors.

  5. Garber is in England for the Soccerex Convention, where he is there to market MLS and secure new deals with sponsors and television, what else is he supposed to say. And its an interview with SkySports who broadcasts MLS in England. He also once again reiterated there will be no relegation and promotion in MLS and was trying to sell a competition between the winners of the US Open Cup, MLS Cup, EPL, and FA Cup. Sounded like MLS thinks its a great idea and FA is not really sure if they need it.

    • That Trans-Atlantic whatever is yet another silly marketing idea from the Don, who always prioritizes marketing over competition. If it ever comes to pass, you can be sure it will be scheduled so as to be convenient for the EPL clubs and another scheduling nightmare for the MLS clubs.

  6. No way is MLS one of the top leagues in the world in a decade or less. The only way this happens is if the Euro suffers a complete collapse and all the players in Europe are forced to look for work outside of the European Union.

    And as far as fan growth and demographics… “Garber said one demographic MLS is trying to appeal to is the 18-35 age group, but women are also a huge part the league’s success.” Yes, but it took two decades for MLS to get away from trying to attract the soccer mom/family demographic rather than the same demographic that every other league in the world is interested in, the 18-35ers. They typically aren’t shelling-out the money for the expensive seats, but they’re the group that is bringing the atmosphere.

    Nothing against soccer moms, or dads, or youth players, the experience needs to be great for them as well, and the kids are the future of MLS. However, I personally feel that MLS has stumbled into this success more than planned for it.

    Teams like the Galaxy were building something special, but when the Cascadian teams came into the league, and, at the same time all the new soccer-specific stadiums were being built, along with the fact that the MLS demographic bumbling of the first decade-and-a-half didn’t turn off the 18-35 demographic… that is why the league has been successful.

    Garber’s job before he’s gone is very simple – do whatever you can to get the TV contracts as large as possible. Until the league has a contract that isn’t drops in the bucket compared to many of the biggest leagues in the world, we will never be able to afford to be among the best.

  7. Sorry about the link in the above post… here’s the cut and paste version:

  8. Sadly, whether or not this is true, the USA won’t be one of the top teams in the world.

    Look at England. They’ve had “the best” league in the world for some time now, and they haven’t come close to lifting a trophy. The best players in that league have been foreigners, with a few exceptions.

  9. I define “top league” as one with a mass of internationals currently playing for World Cup contenders and/or a number “one-off” internationals generally considered to be a top-50 player (e.g., Bale). MLS has zero such players now (Kaka and Pirlo are unlikely to feature in 2018). I don’t see that changing much in the near future given the huge revenue streams in Europe that simply don’t exist yet in the US. That doesn’t mean MLS won’t increase in popularity or get better technically. It will, but it will be gradual barring a massive change in approach.

    • The rapid expansion also dilutes the talent pool which cause more foreign born players to be brought in, which overall hurts USMNT team which in turn hurts MLS popularity.

      Oh I hate how everything is connected, that stupid butterfly in Sweden flapped its wings and caused a gust of window in Brazil that made Wondo shank the game winner against Belgium.

      • Giovinco could be one, true. And Kaka and Pirlo getting called up while in MLS is progress. But it also demonstrates just how far away MLS really is from being a “top” league. As I’ve watched the league develop, I’ve waited for the point where an MLS All-Star team, if allowed to practice and play as a real team, could realistically compete at the top half of the table in the EPL or La Liga. We may be there now. But again, that’s an All-Star team, not an actual team.

  10. About a year and a half ago I predicted that MLS would surpass the Mexican League in quality in 3 to 5 years. Considering how much the league has improved this season, I think this is very doable. I also said at that time that in a decade MLS would probably be about on a par with Holland, maybe on a par with France. We could make the equivalent to France in that time frame. But La Liga, EPL, etc.? I don’t think so.

    • Lyon is one of the best producers of talent in the world; Lille has come and gone but will come back because they keep finding incredible talent; Marseille is a very big European club which has won the Champions League, developed or attracted so many big players, and last year was near PSG’s level; PSG, and Monaco, Bordeaux, St. Etienne.. etc . The top ten clubs are all excellent.

      MLS isn’t even comparable. Comparisons shouldn’t be made if the two leagues can’t compete head to head in competition. MLS is fine the way it is and needs to grow naturally and stop trying to market its relevance.

      • You are ignoring PSG. But I was talking about a decade in the future, or 8 and one half years from now. Considering the DP’s who have been signed by MLS in the last year, I still think comparable to France by 2024 is possible. I never said likely, but possible.

      • How many of those DPs are under the age of 30 and/or still in their prime? MLS certainly needs to find more Giovinco’s, guys still in prime years but not seeing playing time.

      • Diego Valeri, Dos Santos, I think guys like Ridgewell in Portland, Giles Barnes, David Villa was just 30 I think when he signed. If I took a while I could probably think of more or if I took the time to research I know I could find more examples. In the last two years there has been a big improvement in this area.

  11. Way back in the dark ages, the US imported entire soccer teams from abroad to populate a league.

    The same model is still available more or less, If MLS owners want to spend lots of money, they could recruit enough foreign players to populate an entire league and have its teams play at a high level. There would be very few Americans playing in this league and it would probably be completely detached from the rest of American soccer — the lower divisions, college soccer, youth soccer and so on. You could do it. It would take lots and lots of money. Garber seems to be saying that TV revenue and perhaps gate receipts are headed in a direction that would make something like this possible in the near future. I very much doubt that soccer TV and attendance in the US would provide anything like the money needed to equal, say, the Bundesliga.
    Of course, one might ask: what would be the point of doing this? Well, the MLS owners might make lots of money. Again I doubt it, but rich people have tried dumber things. It probably wouldn’t help the US national team or produce lots of better American players. Once you start down the road of hiring foreigners, it is hard to stop. Just ask the English FA. And I doubt that it would do anything much for the rest of American soccer.
    My preference, and it is probably a pipe dream, is that USSF assert itself and set out to promote soccer generally in the US — meaning lots more professional and semi-professional teams organized in a rational way — with the goal of making live professional soccer available to most urban Americans. A number of big hurdles would have to be overcome, not the least of which is creating good stadia for teams to play in. USSF might also recognize that the future of American soccer players (meaning the development of more and better players) is a function of more playing opportunities in decent professional leagues, much better pay and better places to play. Instead of concentrating on the US national team in a narrow way, USSG ought to be building the soccer industry throughout the country.

    • What you’re describing is an open pyramid with strict Bundesliga-style rules about finances and academies.

      It’s not going to happen

    • Agree with what you say, I even have “proof” lol.

      Back in what we consider the dark ages, before the MLS, we had the “old” NASL, which in an off hand way was successful. It’s biggest success was to teach anybody else who wanted to start a successful soccer league, was what NOT to do, and especially do not follow the European model. But even prior to the formation of the “national” NASL, there were other leagues around the country that represented themselves as a “National league”. I the late 60’s early seventies, I grew up in the South Bay in LA. it was were soccer was played, but mainly by the the ethnic groups and neighborhoods and barrios. I played in several Hispanic leagues as a high schooler and became pretty proficient

      • part 2 (sorry i pressed the send button mistakenly)
        but we played a team from Texas in a tournament, that were so good we lost by 5 goals, which never happened before. We found out later that this this team from Austin, Texas was composed entirely of a first Division Brazilian Team that came to the US and posed as a US team during it’s off season to pick up money through side bets and tournament winnings (when the tournament or league was a pro one.) We were an amateur team although 3 members played in Mexican and El Salvadorean pro teams when they were younger.
        I was a track and field athlete and did get a scholarship to a Pac-10 team when I graduated but I played soccer all the time. At this stage there were no college scholarships for soccer, although some colleges, like UCLA offered it through intra (and extra) mural competition This was pointed out to me by a high school friend from Germany who urged me to go to UCLA instead,.Some guy named Sigi Schmid.

        It was several years later in the mid 70’s where I got a good taste of 1st division “foreign” US soccer when working out at El Camino College one morning, a friend whom I knew through local soccer teams saw me in the weight room and got me into a local “pick-up” soccer game at Murdoch stadium. It was mainly the LA Aztecs and friends, with George Best. etc and for four glorious Saturday mornings I got to play some pick-up games with the LA Aztecs. At that time the LA Aztecs were about 95 percent UK players and our opponents were UK players from other NASL teams hanging out in LA during the off-season. I went to a few Aztec games where the full squads played and there were some US and other foreign players, but they were window dressing mainly, but they did have a good carribean player who actually scored a lot of goals the next season. But at this time they were all UK players

        It all became clear when after a few years the NASL Aztecs folded for a variety of reason. I had movd on to another sport, but i figurd out right away if your sport was to grow, you needed US players

  12. Is he trolling?

    Yeah, the MLS is doing a great job of bringing in DP’s and better quality foreign imports, but the majority of the players are Americans (those are the rules). The average American player is still lightyears behind the average Argentine, Dutch, French, etc. because they’ve been playing the sport for several decades longer than we have. It will be generations before our youth system starts to produce players like those countries can.

      • Because the best American athletes are currently not playing soccer, sorry its true. Look at the top soccer countries are any of them a country were soccer isn’t the most popular sport and its not even close in most of them. Even with the huge growth in youth soccer across the country by the time they reach their teenage years soccer participation drops considerably.

      • I’d imagine participation drops considerably everywhere.

        I agree that the more people playing the game at the youngest levels the better. The way to make that happen is to grow the game here and MLS is a big part of that.

      • It has to be in the proverbial water.. “It,” whatever it is, is not in our water yet. Maybe it won’t ever be. I’m a bit of a dark person, but I personally don’t think we will ever be able to claim we have the best player in the world, let alone win a world cup.

        It boggles me that people want to put timescales on these sorts of things. Generations, “10 years”, “2010,” who knows? It may never happen. Or it may happen overnight. The Dutch became great, post-war, thanks to a brief cultural phenomenon (Provos) and a confluence of geniuses (Cruyff, Michels), and have been great since (helped by Surinamese). It was instant and unpredictable; before, the Dutch were very bad.

      • 2002 gave us false hope, both with the success of our team and the success of other non soccer powers like Turkey and South Korea. If you look at the last 3 WCs since then though they’ve been dominated by the soccer powers, you get maybe one team like Costa Rica or Ghana who makes a quarterfinal run but other than that its all Europe and S.America.

      • The soccer world was different then and not as tight. They key thing is they went full professional and developed soccer schools. The key issue is still identifying talent and proper coaching. You can ‘t tell me it comes does to best athletes when the US is 360 million and the Dutch are 20 million and consistent contenders, generation after generation. Give me everyone in a state the size of California (30 million), put proper soccer infrastructure for talent identification, teaching, and refining and the US becomes a power in about 15/20 years.

        Al the best athletes in Japan play baseball and soccer..where are they?

      • I agree. The better “more, better athletes” argument is bunk. I meant that something cultural must happen. Has nothing to do with the size of our country, in fact that’s an impediment, in a way.

        But, while scouting and coaching are critical, I think the most important thing is that kids play more soccer at a young age. I live in France and kids here are just in love with the game, from a really young age. Play it all the time obsessively. So, it’s reps, not academies. With a ball, with friends, anywhere, all the time. Messi, Cruyff, Zidane, they worked so hard from a very very young age. Then the crème may start to rise, so to speak. Then, professional clubs will discover these players. The best ones will be easy to find.

        But my real point was that there is nothing inevitable about this – if the conditions aren’t right for it to happen, it may never happen.

      • Soccer fans have been spouting this nonsense for decades. Just give them a ball and let them play in the street and voila, you will have world class soccer players. If this were true, soccer would be virtually alone among human activities. Where else do we rely on children to teach themselves anything important?

      • Bingo. This is the difference between the US and any top-tier soccer nation. In other countries, they play soccer obsessively as soon as they can walk (and watch it on TV as well). By the time they join organized teams, they already play and understand the game well. In the US, kids learn it at the age of five by joining an organized team (usually 11v11) with a bunch of kids who have never kicked a ball before and parent coaches who never played the game before. It doesn’t matter how many kids you have in this pool or how good the athletes are, none of them will turn into a great player under those conditions.

      • Certainly growing up surrounded by soccer and in particular adults who have played soccer does make a difference. But the idea that just this explains the differences between the US and Europe, for example, and the idea that this is the key to producing superior soccer players is complete nonsense.
        No one in organized soccer in Europe would buy these notions. France, the Netherlands, Germany, and even England spend fortunes every year on academies and other organized approaches to training soccer players. Heck, the French virtually invented the idea of a national academy.
        Of course, their academies produce more superior players because they start with better athletes with more motivation.

      • I never said the academies don’t matter, I just said that the one thing that all elite soccer nations have in common is that they obsessively play pickup soccer as soon as they can walk. In the US, we learn by playing on an organized team. You can’t run before you can walk, and until we figure that out, we’ll be mediocre even with an extensive youth academy system (which is why we still haven’t produced a world class player yet).

      • Wow,, I wish I had a beer for every time I have heard this “dribbling around the street” rubbish.
        If giving soccer balls to small boys was the key, how is it that some European countries (Hungary, Romania…) produce almost no decent soccer players? How is it that the English national team gets worse with every passing year?
        Name me any other activity where we think just giving small children the needed tools (crayons?) is sufficient for them to become world class?

      • Because we have not produced even one elite field player yet. Not one. Heck, we usually only have a handful of Americans at a time they can even play in one of the top five leagues. Each one of those leagues has hundreds of players at that level. You can’t get blood from a stone. The conditions are not there yet to produce top class players here. It would be impossible for the same leagues and the same coaches to all of the sudden produce elite players out of thin air.

    • What you say about the quality of US MLS players is true and even Garber says that it will be 10 years before MLS is a top league, and that’s being incredibly optimistic. Yet there are people who post on this site who think you can just pluck some US player who is having a good year in MLS onto the US national team and magically transform them into a much better team. MLS is on the rise, but not because of the US players, but because of the foreign imports. Maybe in 5 to 10 years the team academies will begin to pump out better US players (we are beginning to see some improvement already), but it is likely a decade away. These things take time.

  13. The lowest spending club in the EPL last year spent something like 33 million in salary alone and in 10 years that will be much higher so if Don wants MLS to be a top league on that level the cap will have to grow astronomically. And non-salary spending would have to as well, scouting, training facilities, youth and reserve team spending, manager salaries, and without the kind of tv money the EPL makes it cannot happen in such a short time.

  14. Garber, focus in winning Champions League first!

    MLS needs to winning 4 or 5 next out 10 Champions Leagues to be consider “TOP” league. Right now MX is outclassing MLS.

  15. Julian Green wants to play with the best on the big team, MLS wants to play with the best too, nothing wrong with aspirations. Nothing wrong with dreaming a bit. We will become a powerful league, it’s a matter of when not if.

  16. I don’t think the Don is that crazy. It’s partly that the league has slowly but surely been getting better all the time. It’s partly that I think the French and Italian leagues are not as amazing as they once were. My opinion is that MLS teams are pretty likely to reach the levels of all but the top teams in each league. Will any of our teams become Real Madrid, Barca, Chelsea, PSG, Juventus? Doubtful. But take out the mega clubs, and the gap has already closed quite a bit. You can put even the Rapids on the field with the bottom feeders of the EPL and they won’t look out of place. Of course, over the course of a 38 game season, the MLS depth problem will come glaring through. But we’re not that far. The key is to grow the league enough that the truly deep pocketed American investors decide to spend their money here rather than in Europe. The Glazers, John Henry, those guys. When they jump on, the game will change. The Don just needs to make the league look enticing enough for the money to go in. I imagine we’ll keep a salary cap, but with big money it might be something like $25 million, rather than the tiny sums we have now. I have faith.

    • Quit watching summer friendlies and thinking it equates to real life. They Rapids could not compete against the bottom of the EPL and quite frankly you don’t compare leagues based on the bottom you compare on the top.

      People like the Glazers got rich from making smart business decisions, why did they buy Man U instead of DC U, because Man U makes money and when they decide to sell it will make them even more. You are along way from big American money investing in MLS.

      Even if MLS was allowed to spend money equal to Europe the Champions League will keep a majority of international stars in Europe, MLS can’t compete with that unless Liga MX invest equal amounts and that won’t happen.

      • “You are a long way from “Big Money” investing in MLS.”

        Is this a serious statement? NYCFC is partly owned by Manchester City, i.e. Sheik Mansour. Go look him up. His partners are the little known Steinbrenner family, who happen to also operate the mom-and-pop sports team known as the Yankees (Big American money). The Galaxy are owned by the Anchultz Entertainment Group (Big American money). Look them up. The Rapids – let me say that again, the Rapids – are owned by Stan Kroenke, who is only the majority owner of Arsenal (Big American money). Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, is a part owner of the Sounders (Big American money). Are there some “small” money owners in MLS? Sure, compared to the top end ones, yes. But to say top money isn’t interested in the MLS neglects the very obvious facts contradicting such a statement.

      • Fair enough but Cairo was implying the big money was going to be spent in MLS and that hasn’t happened and isn’t allowed anyway. Kroenke doesn’t spend on the Rapids and hasn’t brought over young Arsenal talent as was hoped. NYFC has at least loaned in Angelino. And when Anschulz and Allen spend money everyone complains its unfair. Bill Gates can buy Subway franchise, but if doesn’t invest anymore money in it than a regular franchisee its still just a Subway.

      • The Glazers took a risk by leveraging their asset. For a brief time, Man U was “upside down” which meant they had more debt than the “market value” of the team. While that may have cost them and some fans, sleepless nights, and in some years, no big player acquisition, and lost opportunities for the title, it was barely a blip. Man U is just about debt free now. Thanks to savvy investments a whole lot of marketing (just their kit sponsor is bigger than all of the MLS salaries). The Blazers used their sports marketing acumen, gleaned from being owners in the NFL (the most successful sports league in the world) and applied it to Man U.

        If you read Garber’s bio, he was an NFL marketing exec, he’s probably better at it than the Glazers and it’s a good reason why the MLS is expanding and has it’s own “billionaire boys’s club” wth a lot of trust in the Don and when he make a proclamation like he’s doing, it’s not just wishful thinking.

      • I’m not saying Don isn’t doing a good job and he’s saying exactly what you should say, but for people to actually believe that MLS is already just as good as all but the top teams in the world is crazy. And every investment was at risk during the global financial crisis, but Man U was still a pretty safe investment because it was already at that time a major global brand, grown by the Glazers sure but a brand none the less.

      • Clearly, reading closely is not JohnnyRazor’s strong suit. I never said that MLS teams were the equal of all but the top tams in the various leagues. I said that they could be on the field with them and not look out of place. Of course the Rapids cannot compete day in and day out with players making 20 times what they make. And in the top leagues, that money is spread throughout the roster, whereas on MLS teams the Top 5-7 players on each team are earning the lion.s share of the salaries. But the gap between the starting 11 at, say, Bournemouth and Dallas is quite small. It’s certainly nowhere near as big a gap as the salaries suggest. It’s also disingenuous to compare MLS to EPL as if all of the Top 5 leagues were like the EPL in terms of money. The closest is the Bundesliga, and it’s actually nowhere close. The avg. player salary at the poorest EPL Team in 2014 was something like $1.6 million, meanwhile in the Bundesliga it’s $800k. In La Liga it drops to $450K, Italy $550K and France $450K. So, it’s EPL and EVERYBODY ELSE. Put another way, SIX MLS teams avg. player salary this year is higher than the smallest payroll teams n La Liga and Ligue One (LAG, NYCFC, Toronto, Orlando City, NYRB, and Seattle Sounders). So, the money gap once you take out the top teams is actually quite small and in some cases, non-existent. Sorry, but it’s true

      • Bournemouth would beat the Rapids 9 times out of 10 and Dallas 7 or 8 times out of 10, the competition level is not as close as you say. And if you look at the median salary the numbers aren’t close either as people pointed out above. I don’t think MLS is a bad league, and I think Don should say what he said, but you were making a case that MLS teams are as good as bottom teams in EPL and its not true. Could they bunker in and keep it close yes. Could Galaxy make for an entertaining game yes, MLS as a league couldn’t compete, starting 11 to starting 11 with teams from any of the top 5 leagues.

  17. Talent follows money in the global football economy. Even when you develop homegrown talent, money helps keep them.

    I don’t see how Don expects that spending to grow. MLS owners have little incentive to spend compared to other leagues.

    Just make the playoffs and take your chances in the postseason

  18. It depends on what he means by “one of the best”
    Top 20? It’s not that hard so maybe.
    Top 10? I don’t see it in less than 10 years.
    Top 5? Get back on your meds, dude.
    He knows he’s pretty safe saying things like that since nobody can probe MLS is not one of the top 20 leagues in the world already.
    He should get a job writing fortune cookies.

  19. MLS in 10 years on par with La Liga, Serie A…not sure if this called PR, wishful thinking, self-promotion, wilful blindness, the blabbering of a non-footballing person running a football league…

    A deluded (but very wealthy) individual the Don is.

    Tell us, The Don, who the newly “promoted” “franchise” to your league is…who is the lucky city and owner.

    What a make-believe league this is…

    I do look forward to a day in which people who have actually played football run MLS, as well as the Soccer Federation…at the very least they will know when to keep their mouth shut and not make such ridiculous statements as the one The Don just made…

    • Yeah a more realistic short term goal is best league outside of Europe. Right now, I’d say we’re behind Mexico, Brazil and Argentina but that’s probably it although there may be other leagues that are around the same level. That may be doable in 10 years.

  20. Didn’t US Soccer has a similar claim? Project 2014 or something like that? We’d win a World Cup by 2014. No such luck. And based on many MLS players’ performances last night against Brazil, I don’t see Thunder Don’s premonition coming true.

    • It was Project 2010 and it was more of a success than most people remember. The goal was to be a contender, which we were on the verge of becoming.

      We got to the final of a FIFA event – the 2009 Confed Cup, knocking off a historically dominant Spanish side in the process. And if Edu’s goal against Slovenia had stood, we would have been far more rested for the Ghana match, needing only a tie against Algeria to guarantee advancement. That could have led to a different outcome.

      • Project 2010 helped develop better players, but we have not come close to becoming a serious contender for the World Cup.

      • We are not a WC contender. Expected to get out of the group, sure, but contender to win the WC? We still have a LONG way to go. Contenders are teams like Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, Brazil, Spain, etc. They might have an occasional bad WC performance, but the quality to contend is usually there.

      • Listen, in my heart, I feel as much Brazilian as American, and I go back to Brazil once a year. I also had the pleasure to live in France. I can tell you from first hand experience, no one really cares about the Confederations Cup. I still have school friends who live in Brazil and friends who live in Europe. I live in Paris during a confederations cup when France was in it — NOBODY cared. They only game Brazil cared about was the Spain game in ’13 because we knew we had a weak team and wanted a yardstick.

        A perfect example is the club world cup. Big teams don’t really care about it, but teams from CONMEBOL (if they play a European team – only), CAF, Asia and CONCACAF care about it. Please stop making it seem like it is a greater award than it really is.

  21. Depends how you define “world’s best”. I guess Garber tried with the quote in the last sentence. Being as good as the top 5 leagues isn’t realistic by 2022 or 2025. One day, sure, but there’s still a long way to go. I’m not crazy about every move Garber has made but you can’t argue with the growth of the league and improvement in terms of the play on field and the stadia MLS teams play in.

    • I agree with you, and if you are talking about the quality of play, we are still a way off.

      The EPL has the largest Media rights packages in football and that translates to about an average salary in the EPL of about 1.9 Million Dollars (that’s average) whereas the the MLS is about $200k (and that includes DP salaries and other salaries “of the book” eg homegrown for salary cap purposes)

      But look at this: The NFL, MLB, NHL and the NBA, all have average player salaries bigger than the EPL. In fact the aggregate salary base for just US major sports leagues is larger than the combined Football leagues aggregate salaries in all of Europe. Our media rights packages are gigantic compared to Europe. and our average salaries for MLB and NBA players are double of what the richest League in Europe, the EPL.

      While we have a larger aggregate in person and stadium attendance than the NHL does. their TV rights packages are, at the national level. 4x what the MLS gets and locally, 5-100x more. Watch how Montreal’s local media rights grows, now with Drogba, but be minuscule compared to what the Canadians will get.

      If these ratings hold true, the short term impact will be larger salary caps growth, even as soon as next year, and more Garber Bucks or TAMS in the near future. While a major boost will not come until the media rights are renegotiated in 4-8 years fits within the 5-10 year growth spurt Garber is predicting, which will put us attendance wise in the top 5, monetarily in the top 5 and with more bucks come better players and better football.

      This fantastic growth is only possible because how large the US media market is

      • Really hard to compare though with NHL rights your broadcasting 82 games a year as opposed to 34. Same with attendance 81 major league games to 17 MLS games. Also I know MLS outdraws NHL and many NBA on per game basis, but how do they compare with Gross income from attendance on a nightly basis.

      • But even averaging in the number of games played, a lot of games are not nationally televised (like the MLS) The NHL has been around much longer and has has a big head start, even then the amount of media rights is somewhat distorted.

        Recently the NHL decided to add two new expansion teams; Quebec and Las Vegas. Quebec has become big enough to be a second market outside of Montreal,(at least in Hockey) and Hockey IS the national sport in Canada. Los Vegas was chosen as here is NO competition from other Pro sports and the city supports a significant number of snow birds and Canadian visitors, there are hockey fans even in Las Vegas.

        But more important the NHL has needed to market to ” millennials” and the younger market ages,the most sought after by advertisers, whereas that age group is the MLS middle point. Capture a big enough share (and 300-500k viewers will do it, and advertisers and TV money will beat a path to your door.

        Yet despite that, the NHL will continue to pull in overly large media contracts because they have been around for 70 years and even if your market is skewed towards older retirees, it is a defined market.

        The MLS is so new, a lot of advertisers will need to see this new TV ratings growth sustained, but when they do, the MLS will be seeing these TV rights increase to maybe not NHL levels right away, but soon.

      • Media rights move the mountain, Big Ten Network changed college football as it expanded to New York and Baltimore/DC they would have brought in UConn and Syracuse if they could have would have locked down much of the Northeast. The SEC had to follow with its own network to keep pace grabbing Houston and St. Louis markets as did Pac 12 who poached the Denver and Salt Lake markets.

        Why do you change the rules to allow more star quality players to attract casual American fans, but also to expand to foreign markets. A fan in Brazil isn’t going to tune into a MLS game to watch Mix Diskerud, but Kaka yes. Same with Gerard and Lampard.

      • bottlcaps,

        As a soccer fan, I appreciate your excitement. However, as someone who studied math, your numerical and statistical analysis is incredibly flawed at the most basic level.

        First, your average salary for EPL is off. I know I can’t post links (my comment will get stuck in moderation), but they are easy to find. The average salary was listed (according to the Daily Mail – last November 15th) was GBP 2,273,277 or approximately $3,523,579.35 per year. All top six leagues average over a million USD a year (in order of pay: EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1, Russia Premier League).

        Forbes ran a report around the same time (January 2015) comparing average salaries in American leagues: NBA Average Salary: $4.9 million for the 2013-14 season, MLB Average Salary: $3.82 million for the 2014 season, NHL Average Salary: $2.58 million for 2013-14 season, and NFL Average Salary:$2 million for the 2013 season.

        So NBA is the highest average pay, but EPL is roughly on par with MLB (depending on exchange rate), but more than NFL and NHL. On a side, note EPl and other leagues have salaries that are more normally distributed than MLS which is why their median pays are more much closer (percentage wise) to their average than MLS (Avg about $225K is approx double median: about $97K)

        Second, Johnnyrazor is right, it is really hard to compare MLS with NHL. You really have to understand their revenue structure. Every MLS team has about 17 home games vs 41 NHL games, not to mention average MLS tickets (last I checked) were in the $40’s and NHL were in the $60’s. However, the key differentiation is in tv revenue where NHL DWARFS MLS in terms of number of games and total revenue. In the US market, all MLS tv games average about the 240,000 viewers (a steady improvement). NBC averaged 1.73 million viewers through, but NBCSN (in a lot fewer homes) averaged about 532,000. However, the key market is Canada where NHL gets football numbers and merchandising sales. NHL 2013-14 revenues hit $3.7 billion with salary caps of about $70 million per team. In comparison, MLS revenue for the 2014 season was $461 million (approximate 1/10th).

      • I tried posting the links, but my comment was stuck in moderation. I ma going to try again in a different format. Here is a listing of soccer salaries, by league ( In addition, here are the US league salaries (

      • Here are the NHL numbers (

        Do I have a lot of time? Yes. I am on vacation this week :).

      • I got my figures from several web sites and all were defined different ways.

        But my point was this: The US media market is an 800lb gorilla in a room full of monkeys.

        Whereas the UK domestic market can support all domestic football leagues with good money and the EPL, with foreign markets rights, add up substantially to some big numbers, they pale in comparison to the US.

        We support in the US, 5 major sports (NOT including college sports but including the MLS) in 4 of those 5 major sports leagues, the players salaries and TV rights are at least equal to or greater than the EPL. The competition for the sports dollar sin the US is far greater than the UK, which despite popularity of Cricket, snooker or darts, really has only one professional sport to compete over.

        Or do this exercize (if you off this week)

        Add up all US sports TV rights awarded (for pros leagues) divide the length of contract into years and divide total amount so you get $$ per year.

        Do the same thing for the UK, Spain France, Germany and Italy. and add them as an aggregate and divide either by country or all.

        You will most likely find the US is a beast.

        Don’t forget to convert to Euros, pounds or dollars as appropriate.

        Or take 10-20 percent of the aggregate US TV rights fees and compare them to any football league anywhere in the world.

        So you get where Garber is coming from.

        Simple math: a small percentage of a very very large market, is more money from a large percentage of a small market.

      • When comparing across sports it may be best to compare team salaries rather than players. NFL pays so low an average because they carry so many more players while the NBA carries so few.

      • “But look at this: The NFL, MLB, NHL and the NBA, all have average player salaries bigger than the EPL.”

        The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA don’t have to compete with other global leagues of a comparable size. The EPL has to compete against, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, and dozens of other leagues that pay big salaries that aren’t even in Europe. MLS also has to compete against these same markets. If MLS existed in a vacuum the way the other American leagues did then you would have a point, but it has a huge mountain to climb.

      • The EPL does not “compete” against Serie A Liga,etc except in player acquisition. The EPL does not have a monopoly on football in England, you can watch all the major soccer leagues and now because of Sky and eurosport you can watch the MLS. But everybody in England wants to watch the EPL on Saturdays and Sundays and the advertisers will pay big bucks and the TV networks from BBC to ITV to SKY will all pay top dollar to buy one or more packages the EPL offer for domestic consumption.

        It’s the same all over the world. If you are a fan of football, you’ll want to watch EPL, or Liga Mx, if you are a US sports fan and all yourl ife you’ve consumed NFL, NASCAR,NBA and all other US sports. You now can watch a US team in your, or nearby city, play with US players and stars from abroad, you’ll be watching. If your lucky and can go to an MLS game or see an exhibition, you’ll then become a soccer fan, here. If you are a advertiser you’ll advertise here too.

        Dollars,pounds and lira,typically stay at home

      • I’m not following you. The fact that the EPL has to compete against those leagues for player acquisition is precisely why the wages aren’t as high as the North American sports leagues that monopolize sports internationally. Nothing compares to the NBA, nothing compares to the NFL, nothing compares to the NHL. Soccer is a completely differently animal because of this because globally there are multiple NHLs, NBAs, MLBs.

      • This seems strange, but I have an English acquaintance who is also a soccer fan and he and his wife have visited here several times (we know his wife’s parents well). He told me that with my TV sports pack I get more EPL games than he does in England. Not sure what that means or how it works, but it is interesting if hard to believe.

    • Typical criteria for judging quality of a league:
      Quality of play
      Entertainment factor
      Fan engagement (fans in stadiums, watching on TV, following online)

      I think MLS is entertaining. I am entertained when I watch my Galaxy play. The quality of play and fan engagement, however, are both dismally low compared to the big four Euro leagues. We’ve a long, long ways to go before we’re a “top league.”

      • i agree, but i feel the path to that is to release the salary cap, sure perhaps with a newer league you might need one just too keep the whole league going but the times are changing and teams can now afford more due to viewership etc. i’d like the salary cap to make a huge jump in the next 2-3 years and by this ‘year 10’ for the cap to be gone. players choose the top 4 leagues because those leagues can afford to pay them. the world is capitalistic at it’s core. so if MLS could afford those 120 million dollar transfers then players would ABSOLUTELY start to trickle over here.

      • I think to say its only money is a little bit untrue although it is a major factor. The Champions League is considered the top club championship in the world and top players will want to play in that as a way to measure themselves, even if CCL were to merge with Copa Libertodores it wouldn’t rival for quality even with a much improved MLS.

      • They could probably afford to double it right now, but to increase it enough to make MLS competitive with top leagues will need a much better TV contract. I think the current one expires in 6 years.

    • True enough. Quality correlates with payroll and until MLS gets rid of the salary cap or raises it enough to put good players in every position plus a solid bench there is no way that MLS will be a top league.

      • So if we raise (or get rid of) the salary cap, how does paying the same American players who make up the bulk of the league more money turn them into better players?

      • The added money plus the higher quality of foreign players will also make it more attractive for US players to stay in MLS rather than go to second tier European teams. I’m not a big fan of Ream, Spector, Lichaj,etc. but the league would be stronger if they had stayed home.

      • Also, having a good academy is more important in a high salary environment as a few good home grown players can save millions in transfer fees.

      • You really think the league would be that much better if those three players stayed?

        There are hundreds of players in the MLS. A few better imports (and Americans staying home) is not going to turn it into an elite league.

    • While the CBA may spell out the amount of money that the teams (and players) will receive and set the amount of the roster (salary cap), it in itself will not boost MLS into the top tier. What has made Garber so assertive in his aspirations is the sea change in viewership, not only in the ESPN metric, but of all the other media outlets, from Fox to local coverage. An example would be the Galaxy who have their own TV contract with Time-Warner and large rises in viewership in it’s English and Spanish channels.With the into of Dos Santos and Gerrard along with additions of Llletget and the rise of Zardes on the international scene, the viewership has gone up, and this translates into more money (which is not waht other MLS teams want to hear: the rich get richer)

      The MLS plan is simple: Get teams into all the major media markets, get NAME players and distribute then around the league, and especially into the big markets. Get larger and larger media rights packages, and by extension, larger and larger salary caps.
      The larger salary caps will allow more and more better “middle-range” players and smooth out the salary disparities.

      Right now the MLS has the same salary “average” as the FA Championship, but the median is very skewed with the MLS on the very low side because of the disparities of the DP payouts. This will change and faster than you think due to the (hopefully) permanent viewership growth.

      • “Right now the MLS has the same salary “average” as the FA Championship, but the median is very skewed with the MLS on the very low side because of the disparities of the DP payouts. This will change and faster than you think due to the (hopefully) permanent viewership growth.”

        Actually, that is very incorrect. According to the numbers for midway through last season in the DailyMail (in Pounds) the average Championship salary was GBP 486, 033 (8th in the world) while MLS average was GBP 135, 945 (22nd in the world). If you convert it to US dollars at last Decembers rate, that is approximately $753,351.15 and $210,714.75, respectively. The average pay in the Championship is about 3x’s MLS average – another reason why Ream is staying and making just over a million a year.

        However, you are right in saying that the average is skewed toward the few heavily paid millionaires. If you arranged the salaries from lowest to highest in MLS, the median (or salary dead-smack in the middle) is about $97,000 a year according to the players union.

      • Sorry, my numbers came from 2014/2015. The league salaries in the MLS are ahead of FA Championship salarie,s as the English season had not yet started, and the MLS was already under way.The FA rosters has not yet finalized.

        And I might add that the FA’s Championships new domestic TV contract is actually 15 percent less than the previous one!! This has been an area of major concern for the owners in that division. As the Premiership has actually gotten richer, the other divisions have got poorer. right now, (9/2015) almost all of the Championship teams (23 out of 24) have been losing money or are in the red. A lot of this is caused by the Championship taking on loan, players from the EPL, and assuming their salaries. While some EPL teams may pick up some of the salary of the loaned player, a lot do not.

        If you are recently relegated from the EPL, you have relegation quid to get you better players, keep some you got and sell the expensive uneeded ones. But with very stringent work permit rules, even for the 2nd division, you cannot buy outside of Europe or the UK. Making your roster more expensive than it needs to be.

        Also remember that the Championship roster salaries at the first of the season are a lot higher than mid season, as the relegated teams have not yet shed all their higher priced EPL only players. So you have in effect three EPL teams added into the Championship average. These EPL salaries are not made up from theLleague one Promotees, who average salaries are much lower than the Championship.

      • Why are you comparing MLS to a second division of English soccer? I thought Garber’s grand vision is to be on par with La Liga, etc.

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