Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber told the Associated Press that the two-decade old league is losing money, but its profile and exposure is at an all-time high.
Garber pointed to the fact that more international stars are playing in the league and the recent success of the American soccer teams account for the record attendance numbers.
According to Garber, MLS games average more than 21,000 fans, which has been helped by the league expanding to Orlando and adding another New York City-based squad.
Atlanta will receive an expansion franchise in 2017, and a second team will come to Los Angeles the following season. There are also plans for teams in Miami and Minnesota to join the league. Sacramento, St. Louis or San Diego could also have new teams in the near future.
But with all of that success and growth, Garber said the league is losing money, but declined to give exact numbers.
“We're still in investment mode,” Garber told the Associated Press. “But there's a lot of momentum for the sport of soccer in the U.S. and Canada and that is empowering.”
Last year, MLS signed an eight-year deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision for a reported $720 million and in March completed a four-year television deal with European sports broadcaster Eurosport and Brazilian broadcaster Globosat.
“That speaks to this overall growth period that we're going through,” Garber said. “You have to do expansion right. There's no rush. If we have to wait any period of time to get it right, we're willing to do that.”
Garber said he is encouraged by the foreign players who have been on the MLS rosters, including Toronto FC midfielder Sebastian Giovinco, who is second in the league with 13 goals.
“We're still going through these unique phases that are determining what this league will look like,” Garber said. “We don't know what MLS will look like two years from now.
“But if a fan lives in a market with an MLS team, we hope they'll be deeply connected with our local club. Paint their face and wave a flag, put on a club jersey and celebrate this game.”
Garber also said that the league is open to looking at a possible return to the East-West format for the All-Star game, but adds the game featuring an international opponent has been successful.
- Scooby Axson