Don Garber has signed a new five-year contract to remain commissioner of Major League Soccer, one that will see him lead the league through the end of the 2023 season.
Garber’s most recent contract was set to expire at the end of 2018, but sources said that terms for the new deal were approved at the most recent Board of Governors meeting in December. The agreement was formalized earlier this month.
The new deal will also see Garber continue in his role as CEO of Soccer United Marketing.
Garber, 61, was first named commissioner of MLS on Aug. 4, 1999, taking over for Doug Logan. The league was in a difficult position at the time and the low point was reached after the 2001 season when MLS shed franchises in Miami and Tampa, leaving it with just 10 teams.
Since that period, Garber has overseen an era of impressive growth for the league, one that has seen it expand to 24 teams in 2019, with three more (Nashville and Miami in 2020, Austin in 2021) confirmed. Twenty teams now play in stadia that were built for the team or remodeled for soccer. Only one such stadium, Columbus’ MAPFRE Stadium, existed when Garber took over as commissioner. Five new stadiums in Cincinnati, Miami, Nashville, Austin and Columbus are expected to come in the next five years.
According to Forbes, the average valuation of an MLS franchise now stands at $240 million, compared with $37 million in 2008. MLS has also expanded its international reach, with its games now broadcast in 170 countries.
Given that Garber will be 66 at the end of the new contract, this deal is expected to be his last with the league.
Garber has spent his entire professional life working in the sports industry. Prior to joining MLS, he spent 16 years working for the National Football League. At the time of his departure from the NFL he was the senior vice president/managing director of NFL International, where he oversaw all aspects of the NFL’s business outside the United States, including NFL Europe.
Garber often stated that his experience with the NFL selling a niche sport in a new market provided valuable insight into how to build the sport of soccer in North America; he was recruited by NFL owners Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and the late Lamar Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs.