Q&A with MLS commish Garber
SEATTLE -- The Los Angeles Galaxy meet Real Salt Lake in the 14th MLS Cup final here on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Galavisión), and I started the day off by meeting MLS commissioner
Our discussion addressed a number of topics, including his views on using instant replay in soccer officiating (in the wake of the controversy in Wednesday's World Cup Ireland-France World Cup qualifier), the MLS salary cap,
It certainly helps to have two of your biggest stars in the game, and it's going to be fantastic to have David and Landon in our MLS Cup final against a small-market team that, in many ways, has proven to be one of the better teams in MLS today. I'm smart enough not to make any predictions because you never know where it will end up, but our ratings have grown on ESPN and Fox, and I think that's a positive sign and an indication of the popularity of MLS.
[Sounders majority owner]
I don't mean the youth-soccer community. I mean those fans that really care about the game, that might have grown up with the sport, and we need to get them to embrace our local teams. Not enough of them are doing that. There are still far more soccer fans in this country than there are MLS fans. If I had to say, "What's the one thing we could achieve over the next decade?" it's that most of the people who care about the game care about MLS.
Seeing [Real Salt Lake's]
So the question is, when do you move from this plan into thinking that it's time perhaps to go and invest more in a wide variety of things? If there was a payoff and spending more money was a way to ensure that you would generate more profits, then I don't think anybody would argue with that plan. The issue here is that there has not been a relation with the exception of one or two moves between spending and even revenues, let alone profit. We're not at that point where there's a direct correlation between spending and profitability.
Those who believe that we're ready now to start thinking about increasing spending don't believe that it's something that will pay off in the short term. There's a view that perhaps it will pay off in the long term, and there's no guarantee that will happen whatsoever. My role is to ensure that we make good decisions. And this is important: At no point does any owner believe we should make any decisions about spending more money while we're in collective bargaining. It makes absolutely no sense to have anybody think we would be willing to do that.
There are many new owners that are committed to the league and have seen some success, particularly recently, but we've all learned in the sports business that life's a long time. The Cosmos were pretty successful as well, and the NASL went out of business. I want everybody to know that some of the positive things that have gone on in the last 12 months aren't necessarily an indication of what our future will look like. It's an indication that we've had a good 12 months in a handful of markets.
We need to have that sustained for five years and 10 years and have that in all markets. Because we have a handful of teams that are really struggling. This can't be a league where three or four teams play against each other. We need 16 and 18 and potentially 20 teams that are all successful and viable in their markets, and we are simply not at that point now. In addition to that, it's taken hundreds of millions of dollars to even get to where we are now, and at some point, we need to ensure that this is a viable business that can turn a profit and have owners that aren't investing money because they think something might happen a decade or a generation from now. Then we'll be in a situation like other leagues have been in when someone raises their hand and says, "I can't do it anymore."