MLS commissioner Don Garber‘s contract has been extended through the 2023 season, allowing him to continue overseeing the league’s expansion push.
After spending 16 years with the NFL, Garber was appointed to succeed Doug Logan as MLS commissioner in 1999. Since assuming the position, Garber has helped grow the league by overseeing a surge in expansion that has taken it to 27 clubs. That expansion has also led to a boosted presence in Canada–thanks to emergence of Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC–and has been a factor in the growth of the soccer-specific stadium model of design that has become commonplace around MLS.
His tenure has not been without criticism, but by granting Garber the five-year extension, MLS is making the decision to allow him to continue overseeing its push for continued growth. More from the New York Times:
Garber took over a 12-team M.L.S. in August 1999, and among his first moves was to close the league’s two Florida franchises, in Tampa Bay and Miami. The decision reduced the league’s roster to 10 teams and raised questions about its viability as a national league.
But in the two decades that followed, Garber led the league on a wave of expansion — first two teams in 2005, and then a steady flow of at least one new team a year from 2007 to 2012. That burst of growth included the additions of three teams in Canada, in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
All the while, he tinkered with the league’s roster and salary rules, recruited global stars like David Beckham and persuaded the owners to invest in player development and new stadiums. M.L.S. had one soccer-specific stadium in 1999; by this summer, 20 of its teams will play in facilities they control.
Garber’s tenure has not been trouble-free. Critics point to the league’s centralized control of player contracts and Soccer United Marketing’s influence with U.S. Soccer as hampering the growth of the domestic game, and Garber once openly feuded with the former United States national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the coach criticized the league.
It should be noted that the total of 27 MLS clubs includes the 24 that will compete in the 2019 season, along with upcoming additions in Nashville (2020), Miami (2020), and Austin (2021). One priority for Garber and MLS in the near term will be how to plan future expansion, especially with a fairly competitive field of options remaining.
Image of Don Garber courtesy MLS.