Don Garber discussed the present and the future in a fascinating hourlong conference call in preparation for the 2014 Major League Soccer season.
The highly-innovative MLS Commissioner took questions from fans via Twitter as well as journalists.
Garber talked about the state of the league, the upcoming season and potential expansion in the years to come. He emphasized how vital it is to continue to make MLS a No. 1 destination for the world’s best players.
Garber mentioned Philadelphia as one of the top cities for passionate fans along with Toronto, Salt Lake City, Kansas City and Portland.
“Our teams are getting deeper and deeper into their communities,” Garber said. “They’re embedding themselves and trying to become relevant and culturally important.”
Garber joined the league as commissioner in 1999 and he has seen an incredible amount of change over the past 15 years.
“We are a stable, productive entity,” Garber said. “In 1999 and 2000, we didn’t know what we could be and didn’t know what we would be. We were just trying to get through the next couple years.”
The league has done so much more.
In fact, Garber referenced a recent lunch he had with U.S. National Team Manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
One of the biggest things to come out of that meeting was a talk about the importance of the supporters groups throughout the league.
“The supporter culture has been a game changer for us,” Garber said.
Of course, expansion was a major topic of discussion.
Potential cities and sites in the future could include Atlanta, Austin/San Antonio, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, North Carolina and Sacramento.
Atlanta seemed to be the hottest city with Cleveland the least likely.
The Blank family, which owns the Atlanta Falcons, has talked with Garber about a potential franchise since 2008.
“There’s a lot of activity there, massive demographic changes down there,” Garber said. “We’re very excited about Atlanta. It’s a market that needs the professional game at the highest level.”
Before moving to the future, Garber also opined on the importance of continuing to keep the current franchises financially viable.
“We’ve got to be in a situation where our clubs are making money and not losing money, so that we can continue to invest in this business and continue to build quality of play, relevance of teams and passion of our fans in a way where we ultimately achieve our goals,” Garber said.
The 2014 season begins on Saturday when Seattle Sounders FC host defending champion Sporting Kansas City.
The Union open their highly-anticipated season Saturday night at Portland (10:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
“We’re very excited for a great season,” Garber said.
What did you think of Garber's comments? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org