Nobody can say that Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber doesn’t love his job.
Garber visited Minnesota United on Thursday and fully enjoyed his time here. “These are my favorite days,” he said.
Garber was taken on a tour of Allianz Field in the morning before visiting the renovated training facilities at the National Sports Center in Blaine. The Loons’ soon-to-be stadium left an impression on the Commissioner. “Allianz Field is spectacular. I can’t wait for its opening next year. It represents everything that ownership said it would be,” he praised. “I think it will be iconic for our league, and it will be iconic for our sport.”
Minnesotans will have some high-profile soccer to look forward to as well, according to Garber. He promised that Allianz Field will “undoubtedly” serve as the host of the MLS All-Star Game, CONCACAF Gold Cup matches, and national team games.
Many of Garber’s compliments about the stadium would be better directed toward Minnesota United’s ownership. “I know they had a challenge early on developing their team, but that is understandable when they had a quick run-up to launching the team where other expansion teams like LA[FC] and Atlanta have had more time. They’re doing a great job. The club has been competitive,” he explained. “They’re doing everything right.”
Garber also responded to Loons’ captain Francisco Calvo’s comments regarding a lack of respect for Minnesota in the league. “The league loves all its teams. You can’t control what fans, or what the media, what the broader sports industry does to evaluate one team’s launch versus another. Atlanta has done a wonderful job, there’s no doubt about that...I think that lifts up all clubs,” he said. “We’re just trying to ensure that every team, in its market, is delivering on the expectations of its local fans, the public sector, our media and corporate partners, and I think this club has done a good job at that.”
MLS had initially been dubious of the Minnesota United brand before the team launched, and there was no small amount of drama over what Minnesota’s MLS franchise would called. Garber owned up to the fact that he was “100% wrong” and was very pleased with the branding success that the club has had.
That brand, along with a league-wide one, will receive additional attention this summer. Garber sees the USA Cup, which brings millions of youth soccer players and their families to the NSC, as a prime chance to grow the game.