MLS

Don Garber promises thoughtful approach as MLS bids to compete with top leagues

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber says they will do whatever it takes to compete with the likes of the Premier League and believes an eventual relaxation in their spending rules is inevitable.

The 29th season of the United States and Canada’s top division got under way on Wednesday, with Lionel Messi shining in Inter Miami’s 2-0 home win against Real Salt Lake.

MLS sent ripples around the world last summer by signing the now eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, kicking off an exciting new chapter in the ever-evolving competition’s history.

 

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The loosening of rules and restrictions around spending would help accelerate that progress, but Garber believes patience is key to maximising developments without risking instability.

“(From some there is) this pressure and this energy to spend more money and just accelerate what has been a very strategic and careful growth plan for the league,” the long-serving MLS commissioner said.

“And at some point that’s going to come. The market is going to dictate that.

“But we’re still in a world where we’re managing player engagement and player involvement on a global basis, managing our economics here.”

MLS clubs must currently adhere to a strict salary cap, with three Designated Players allowed outside of that budget to help attract the world’s best.

“We are living through a world where MLS is still a growth opportunity,” Garber said. “Now we’re seeing unique revenue here, so the Messi effect has been dramatic.

“I saw some article about their forecasted revenue. If we thought every team could deliver that by signing players, I could assure you that MLS would adapt its rules to be able to deliver that.

“Somebody wrote an article about how we’re thinking about how to evolve over the next number of years, are thinking in terms of strategic player spending.

“We will do whatever we need to do to grow our fan base, to build the competitiveness of our league, and to grow our revenues, and ultimately the credibility and viability of MLS on a global stage.

“Nothing is going to stop us from doing that. But we just want to be thoughtful about it.”

Messi’s arrival in Miami underlined MLS’ ambitious growth plans and the 2026 World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico offers the chance to take a further giant stride.

Whether the 36-year-old is still playing by then remains to be seen, but the Argentina skipper’s swashbuckling display in Wednesday’s curtain-raiser suggests he has plenty left in the tank.

“Getting him signed was a statement about Major League Soccer – that we can compete, deliver a great experience for a player, a competitive environment,” Garber said. “One where they can further their career.

“There’s going to be another Lionel Messi at some point, and I hope that MLS is in a position to be able to sign that player. Who that player is today, I don’t know.

 

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“But it was a very, very competitive dynamic. I don’t think any of you thought that Messi was going to get signed by Miami when those discussions were going on with Barcelona and in Saudi Arabia.

“So, there’ll be another player that will come in that maybe will be part of the chapter book of our league, but there’s only one Leo.”

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