Don Garber, MLS Commissioner
Don Garber was named Commissioner of Major League Soccer - - America's top division professional soccer league - - in August of 1999, after spending 16 years in a variety of positions with the National Football League.
Since assuming Major League Soccer's top position Garber's vision and leadership have enabled MLS to build a strong foundation for professional soccer in the United States and generate unprecedented momentum for the future of the sport. With one eye on making MLS one of the world's best soccer leagues and another on developing one of America's premier sports and entertainment properties, Garber has guided the League through landmark decisions which have solidified MLS' core business, positioned it for growth and guaranteed the League's long-term viability.
One of Garber's first acts as Commissioner was to adopt the rules of competition used throughout the soccer world. In doing so he reasoned that the game played in the United States is the same game played everywhere in the world giving birth to the league's tagline, It's Your Game (Es Tu Juego in Spanish). This re-positioning resonated with the large and ever growing U.S. ethnic populations that are passionate about the sport and the millions of kids taking to soccer fields throughout the country.
In 2001, Garber re-structured MLS and spearheaded the formation of Soccer United Marketing (SUM) a company owned by MLS investors that is the preeminent soccer commercial entity in the United States. SUM owns the English-language television rights for three FIFA World Cup properties - Korea/Japan 2002, Women's World Cup China 2003 and Germany 2006. At the helm of SUM, he was also instrumental in bringing the 2003 Women's World Cup to the U.S. after it was moved from the original host country, China, following the SARS outbreak. In addition to staging matches in several MLS facilities, SUM also produced the world broadcast feed of the event. SUM also represents several other soccer properties, including the Mexican Soccer Federation for all sponsorship, marketing and game promotion in the U.S.
Under Garber's watch, MLS has also excelled in the sponsorship arena. Sporting such blue chip partners as Budweiser, Pepsi, Honda, Radio Shack, Nike and adidas MLS has shown substantial improvement in 15 of 16 categories measured in the Sports Business Journal's League Report Card for the 1999-2003 timeframe.
Stadium development and expansion plans continue to be at the top of Garber's list for 2004, as the League's second soccer-specific stadium, The Home Depot Center - the new home for the LA Galaxy - was inaugurated six months ago in Carson, California. Garber was also instrumental in receiving approval for the first publicly funded soccer facility in Frisco, Texas, the new home of the Dallas Burn slated to open in 2005. This unique facility will also house 17 youth soccer fields making it the largest of its kind in the world. For the 2006 season, the MLS Chicago Fire expect to move into a home of their own in suburban Bridgeview, IL, while stadium initiatives in various stages exist in Denver, Northern New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Oklahoma City.
Prior to becoming Commissioner of MLS, Garber was the senior vice president/managing director of NFL International, where he oversaw all aspects of the NFL outside the United States, including the NFL Europe League. Garber, who guided NFL International since its creation in 1996, managed a group that grew from five employees based in the NFL offices in New York, to a global organization of more than 130 people, with offices in six countries (Canada, Mexico, England, Germany and Japan). Revenues and profits increased significantly during his tenure.
Before being appointed as the head of NFL International, Garber was vice president of business development and special events for NFL Properties (NFLP), the marketing arm of the National Football League. This group, which he created in 1990, was responsible for all non-game NFL television programming and production, event marketing, grass roots activities and entertainment programming and was responsible for creating the sports event industry standard, the "NFL Experience."
Garber began his career at NFL Properties in 1984 as a marketing manager and became the league's Director of Marketing in 1988, with responsibilities for managing all national NFL corporate sponsorship sales and marketing.
Garber is a member of the United States Soccer Federation Executive Committee, and also serves on the Board of Directors of the United States Soccer Foundation and the National Soccer Hall of Fame Board of Trustees. Outside of soccer, Garber is on the Advisory Board of the Hope & Hero's Pediatric Cancer Foundation at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital; the Board of Directors of the National Campaign Against Youth Violence, a national anti-violence program, and the Board of Directors of Princeton Video Image, a high-tech broadcast company.
He graduated with a degree in business and journalism from the State University of New York, College at Oneonta, where he was president of his senior class. Garber lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.