WASHINGTON (AP) — MLS commissioner Dan Garber’s numbers The arrival of Lionel Messi it’s just the beginning of an exciting few years for soccer in North America.
The United States, Mexico and Canada are hosting the World Cup in 2026, and before that, the 2024 Copa América and the 2025 Club World Cup come to the US.
“North America is driving a lot of the energy and a lot of the potential value of soccer globally, and we believe MLS is one of the drivers of all that energy,” Garber said. “All the opportunity and energy and excitement about what’s going to happen in the next few years will make everybody say, ‘Well, they finally got it.'”
Garber answered reporters’ questions Tuesday, the day before the MLS All-Star Game in Washington. An MLS All-Stars team takes on Arsenal on Wednesday night. Messi’s decision to come play for Inter Miami has given the North American league a boost, and it came as no surprise when the topic came up quite a bit at the commissioner’s press conference.
“A transformational moment for our league, for sure,” Garber said. “Having the greatest player in the history of the game to choose from in Major League Soccer is something I couldn’t be more excited about, and the fact that the first game will be on Friday in our inaugural new Leagues Cup.”
Messi is expected to make his Inter Miami debut against Cruz Azul on Friday in the Leagues Cup, a CONCACAF-sanctioned tournament that includes MLS teams from the US and Canada, as well as participants from Mexico’s Liga MX.
“There has been a lot of talk about the rivalry between our national teams,” Garber said. “We are equal partners in this World Cup-style tournament that will have our teams playing their teams. Lots of energy behind it, lots of prize money and we couldn’t be more excited.”
When Garber was asked what his next dream is for the league, he said MLS is “probably past the point of the dream.”
“We want to be one of the best soccer leagues in the world,” Garber said. “Now we show the world that we can at least compete with the best player in the world, but how do we capture the hearts and minds of fans around the world? How do we capture the hearts and minds of each player?
So, unlike short-term concerns like ticket sales, Garber will assess success after adding Messi.
“How do you really talk about the league’s reputation?” Garber said.
IT IS NOT THE SAME
DC United manager Wayne Rooney, who is leading the MLS team this week, was asked if some sort of All-Star Game could work in the Premier League in England. The former Manchester United star is skeptical.
“The culture is different,” Rooney said. “It’s a great game here, but I think in England, the rivalry between teams, the managers will complain that the players play too much. I just don’t think it works in England.”
YOU DON’T COUNT ON HIM
Garber was asked about the possibility of promotion and relegation coming to MLS. Not in the near future, he said.
“I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but I’ve also learned that it’s never a long time,” he said. “We will have 30 teams. Maybe at some point we will have more than 30 teams. We have this interesting competition with Mexico. Who knows how all that plays out? The minor leagues are developing well in our country.”