MLS commissioner Don Garber has signed a new five-year contract that will keep him in his position through the end of 2018, Garber told SI.com in an interview on Thursday.
The deal means Garber, 56, will have served 20 years as MLS commissioner by the end of the contract.
“It’s the first five-year deal I’ve signed in 15 years. Every other deal was a three-year deal,” said Garber, who took the job in 1999 after spending 16 years as an NFL executive. “I had always been of the mind that you sign three-year deals so you can give everybody the flexibility to determine what you want to do. The league was younger and less mature. Now we’re teeing up a long-term commitment to each other.”
Garber signed the new contract in January, he said. The Queens, N.Y., native has presided over all but the first three-and-a-half years of MLS’s history as a league. After MLS nearly folded in early 2002 (when the number of teams went down to 10), it began a long period of growth that will see 21 teams in the U.S. top flight next season (with the additions of New York City FC and Orlando).
Meanwhile, Garber received good news on another front last Tuesday: He is now cancer-free and needs no further treatment after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer in July.
“I’m feeling good,” Garber said. “I took a break during the month of August that allowed me to effectively recover. Now I’m back in the saddle and energized.”
One thing Garber hasn’t been shy about is setting goals for MLS. He has proclaimed that he wants MLS to be one of the world’s top soccer leagues by 2022, and he wants the league to have 24 teams by 2020. Atlanta is set to come aboard in 2017, while a Miami team co-owned by David Beckham will also join the league if Beckham’s group can finalize a stadium in downtown Miami.
Garber will be 61 at the end of his new contract, but he demurred on whether he’d like to stick around beyond that.
“At some point in year three or four I’ll sit down and determine whether I go beyond 20 years, but 20 years is a long time to do any one job.”