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Garber: MLS underappreciated abroad
January 2nd, 2013 8:11PM

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TAGS:  fifa, mls

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[MLS SPOTLIGHT] MLS Commissioner Don Garber canceled plans to attend the annual FIFA gala for the FIFA Ballon d'Or in Zurich on Monday and will instead attend "Soccer Night in Newtown," the event MLS is participating in the same evening along with other soccer organizations to support those affected by last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The decision comes on the heels of FIFA President Sepp Blatter's remarks critical of MLS's lack of progress.

Garber told SI.com's Grant Wahl MLS had a good relationship with FIFA and Blatter and he looked forward to inviting Blatter to attend an MLS game.

Garber acknowledged MLS owed a debt to FIFA for organizing the 1994 World Cup, but he said MLS's progress -- especially in the face of competition from other American sports -- was underappreciated by those outside North America.

"Even against that backdrop, we have made tremendous progress over the last 17 years," Garber said. "Interestingly, we're probably recognized as being more significant in many ways here in the U.S. than we are in other parts of the football world because of some of those developments: three broadcast partners, every game televised in HD, amazingly strong corporate support, lots of new stadiums and a great fan base that has us now in the U.S. and Canada ranked third [in average attendance] among all of the major leagues after the NFL and Major League Baseball. Those are pretty remarkable developments and ones that we're very proud of."



12 comments
  1. Kenneth Barr
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 8:23 a.m.
    A good response from Don Garber. The Sandy Hook event should have been priority #1 all along as the Ballon d'Or gala really doesn't impact US Soccer very much. It's more for hob-nobbing. Sandy Hook gets US Soccer and MLS out where it whould be, in the US homeland. As for Sepp Blatter, let him try to go up against the marketing power of NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAAFB on their home turf. He'd be far less successful than Don Garber and MLS and would probably turn more people off than get them exited about the sport. MLS has always been evolutionary, not revolutionary.

  1. Jaime Sahagun
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 8:43 a.m.
    Despite Blatter comments, the progress of MLS and soccer in USA is being spectacular. The quality of the show and the quality of the US grown players is outstanding. At this point US has enough players to confront any team in the world. At the end soccer will dominate any other sport here and will be at the top in the world rankings. And the Sandy Hook event is priority and Don Garber did the wright thing.

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.
    Garber knows the US market much better than Blatter. Blatter is spoiled by the huge money influx in Europe where soccer is well supported. If the same thing happened in the US, MLS would have gone off the map long time ago, just like the NASL did. I think Garber is doing a marvelous job.

  1. Miguel Dedo
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 9:59 a.m.
    Given that FIFA is one of the more corrupt organizations in the world, commentary from its head as to how to run a sports league is hardly relevant. It seems that after the flood of money raised by selling the loczations of the Russia and Qatar world cups, Blatter sees more money in bashing the US rather than in siding up to it.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 10:04 a.m.
    Credit is due to Garber and the MLS. Slow steady growth through hard economic times in the USA has the league poised to grow bigger and better as we move forward.Though I am one of those who is still not satisfied,I do see the progress being made.And yes,the Newtown event is more important.

  1. Dustin Johnson
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 10:04 a.m.
    What exactly has FIFA done to help the game prosper in the United States? The United States is nothing but a biggie bank for FIFA. The heck with Blatter, he has no issue criticizing MLS while the game is a total mess elsewhere in the world. Where are Blatters criticism of Chinese or the Italians? Both places where pro soccer is fast becoming a fiasco of gambling and declining attendance. MLS numbers are up. Does it compete with NFL, NBA or MLB, no, but those are decades old leagues of sports invented in the United States. Plus, in the United States MLS faces two titanic competitors, the EPL & the Mexican League, a competitive situation that I suspect Blatter does not really understand because in his home country they don't allow large-scale immigration. Criticizing MLS is a joke. 20 years ago the very idea of a pro soccers league surviving was laughable. Credit to MLS for taking a deliberate approach and doing it our way. Blatter can go sit on the John in his Private plane and dream of NFL money, it aint coming any time soon.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
    Well done Don Garber! FIFA is a crucial component of this sport, so its mistakes and mismanagement and corruption should alarm everyone who loves soccer. If anything, FIFA has something to learn from MLS (and the NFL) about the corrupting influence of money; instead of going after MLS, Blatter should have a critical eye on UEFA. The European game, with all the major leagues being headed by just two or three clubs who have a realistic chance at a championship, has become extremely uncompetitive and predictable, and totally misguided initiatives like UEFA's "Financial Fair Play" serve not to promote "Fair Play" at all but to entrench the status quo. Real "Financial Fair Play" should be more than just a slogan to protect the rich. How about fair TV revenue sharing? How about salary caps? Is Mr. Blatter even thinking about these things? These are just two things MLS (again, modeled on the NFL) has done right.

  1. Jim Hougan
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 11:11 a.m.
    Actually, the average attendance at an MLS game in 2011 was 17,872 - a few more fans than could be found at an average NBA game. Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders had a higher average attendance (43,144) than did Chelsea (41,478) in the past year. In general, MLS attendance is about you'd find in France's Ligue 1 or England's Championship.

  1. Andrea Hana
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.
    Yeah! ...and I wouldn't go to your dumb party, either! :P

  1. John Soares
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.
    Garber 1 - Blatter -10

  1. Roger Sokol
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.
    MLS has done a tremendous job getting the league firmly established and on a sound footing. The problem MLS has faced is the huge competition from long established and very profitable leagues in other sports. MLS also had to overcome the negatives associated with the previous attempt at bringing professional soccer to the USA. The slow methodical way MLS has gone about getting the bricks, mortar and solidly established teams in place hasn't made a big splash. But it was and is exactly the right thing to do. It has resulted in the past few years in the league moving from something viewed by the media as never being able to make it or a passing fad to becoming a viable and newsworthy part of the American sports scene. MLS may not be a spectacular success at this moment, but its future success is no longer in doubt. And that is critical. Few people remember that in the late forties, early fifties, both the NFL and NBA existed but were not the overwhelming successes they are now. But the secret was that eventually players and teams came along that caught the public's fancy and skyrocketed the leagues to the positions they hold today. MLS is in much the same spot now they were back then. So Mr. Blatter's comments are a bit premature at the least. As for me, I'm pleased if MLS keeps doing what it's doing while all the remaining pieces of the American soccer scene are put in place and developed. Then, maybe ten or twenty years down the road, FIFA's head will be more worried about how to control the American jaggernaut than to bash it.

  1. Frank Cardone
    commented on: January 6, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
    It is time for Mr. Blatter to retire. He has been at FIFA (and part of the problem) far too long. The same was true about his predecessor. Globally, soccer is beset by numerous, serious problems, not the least of which are fixing games, unruly fans, lack of true competition in leading soccer nations, a rise in rough play. and dare I say it, a lack of goals. Blatter should spend more time,. energy, and resources finding solutions to these problems instead of firing unjustified shots at a convenient target like the US. Oh, I forgot to mention FIFA's poor image thanks to internal corruption. Again, Blatter is part of the problem. Time to retire.


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