MLS Commissioner Talks to Students about the Future of Soccer

By Nancy Ramsey

Oct 27, 2010 4:34pm

ABC News on Campus reporter Clay LePard blogs: After a strong U.S. performance in the recent World Cup, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber believes that soccer has the potential to become one of the major sports in the U.S. Garber spoke to more than 140 students at Syracuse University in a packed auditorium last week about the future of soccer domestically and the U.S.’s attempt at hosting the 2022 World Cup. Garber, one of the chief architects of the U.S. bid, explained the detailed process. “I think it’s continuing to work hard to convince the FIFA executive committee that the U.S. is truly a soccer nation and one that will passionately support the most important sports event in the world,” Garber told ABCNews.com. The U.S. will find out on Dec. 2 whether or not it has won the bid over Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar. And students remain hopeful that the U.S. could host its first World Cup since 1994. “It would be crazy,” said junior Danielle Czysz. “We haven’t really had anything like that since Salt Lake City [site of 2002 Winter Olympics]. We got a few bids in the past but nothing ever came through. But something like the World Cup would definitely increase soccer’s popularity here in the U.S.”   Garber, whose son is a sophomore at Syracuse, also discussed the growth and popularity of Major League Soccer.  Since Garber became commissioner in 1999, the league has added nine expansion teams, including three in Canada. Prior to joining MLS, Garber worked for the National Football League for 16 years, including as senior vice president of NFL International. Garber confessed that before being named commissioner, he wasn’t that big of a soccer fan.  “I didn’t know anything about the sport,” said Garber. “I coached [my son's] kinderkickers class, and I knew how many people were on the team.” And Garber wasn’t alone; students all agreed that soccer isn’t one of the most popular professional sports. “I think it's growing but I don’t think it’s where it should be,” Ryan Tessler, a sophomore center midfielder for the SU soccer team, told ABCNews.com. “I think it’s getting there with players from overseas coming over. You’re starting to see more fans coming to games, especially where they are building new expansion teams, so it’s really great for our [soccer] population.” But some say that the American culture just can’t accept soccer as one of its major sports. “The United States has a long way to go for it to be considered close to being one of the big soccer nations in the world,” senior Kyle Bonn told ABCNews.com. “It’s going to take a lot of work, and I don’t think any one person or any one league can do anything in particular to make it that big soccer nation.” But Garber explained that professional soccer in the United States shouldn’t try to compare itself with other sports. “The support is much younger and far less developed than the other leagues,” said Garber. “MLS is 15 years old. The NFL, MLB, the NHL are all well over 100 years old. The question is not to compare ourselves to the other leagues. It’s, Where do we measure with the other interests in soccer that exist in this country? There are more than enough soccer fans, the World Cup is evident of that – so how do we covert all those people into being fans of Major League Soccer?” The coming week will be a test for the popularity of soccer when the MLS playoffs commence on Oct. 28.      ABC News on Campus reporter Danielle Waugh contributed to this story. Photo courtesy of Brandon Weight/The Daily Orange

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