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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Messi’s Arrival Gives MLS A Major Boost On Global Stage

  • Commissioner touts entry of player he calls the world's best
  • Messi seen as different than other older stars ending pro careers in MLS
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

MLS commissioner Don Garber has spent most of his 24 years in the role hearing jokes or outright condemnation directed at his league’s quality of play.

By some rankings, MLS still rates well outside the world soccer’s top 10 pro leagues. Much of Garber’s job over the years has been boosting MLS — including expansion, new stadiums, attendance, and franchise values — to help dispel those attacks.

Now, he and MLS have a powerful ally in Lionel Messi, the Argentinian legend who Garber described as the best player of all time.

MLS still isn’t the foremost global destination for top players in their primes — a key difference compared to most other major North American pro sports leagues. Messi is 36, four years older than Inter Miami president David Beckham was when he joined the LA Galaxy in 2007.

But after a generation of aging European and South American stars using MLS as a late-career destination, Messi’s arrival less than a year after leading Argentina to World Cup triumph feels fundamentally different.

Before Messi’s introduction on a soggy Sunday night in South Florida, Garber spoke of MLS being a “league of choice” globally, and he continued on the theme before MLS’ All-Star Game Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“We want to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world,” Garber said. “We proved to the world that we can at least compete with the top player in the world, but how do we capture the hearts and minds of fans around the world? The hearts and minds of every player?”

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