NEW YORK – It was a big night for Major League Soccer at the annual Sports Business Awards held in midtown Manhattan.
Atlanta United were named the Sports Team of the Year, their Mercedes-Benz Stadium home was honored with the Sports Facility of the Year award and MLS Commissioner Don Garber was named Sports Executive of the Year.
Atlanta United beat out the Golden State Warriors (NBA), Portland Thorns (NWSL), Washington Capitals (NHL), Milwaukee Bucks (NBA) and Milwaukee Brewers (MLB) for the Sports Team of the Year honor. The MLS club saw success both on and off the field in only their second year of existence in 2018, winning MLS Cup while also averaging a league-leading 52,003 average attendance and breaching 70,000 five times during the regular season.
“It’s amazing when you think of the teams we were up with – the Golden State Warriors and teams from the top sports in America," club president Darren Eales told MLSsoccer.com. "It’s humbling and a real credit to our fans. They’re the reason the club has been the success it is. I can't thank them enough. It still boggles my mind how many fans we get to turn up week in, week out to watch the games. Two years in, there’s a long way to go, but it’s been a fantastic start for us.”
Garber named top sports executive
The successful launch of the Los Angeles Football Club and crowds of more than 72,000 people in Atlanta for both the All-Star Game and its MLS Cup were just some of Major League Soccer’s accomplishments in the last year under the watch of MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who came away with the top sports executive award.
"This award is a credit to all my colleagues who work to grow MLS every day, whether it’s a ticket seller, a sponsorship salesperson, a player, coach, owner or one of the hundreds of the league's executives. I stand on their shoulders," Garber told MLSsoccer.com. "We're all working together to build the sport and this recognition from the sports industry is a credit to the efforts and passion of hundreds of professionals who have helped make MLS what it is today.”
Garber, who signed a five-year contract extension in February and will celebrate his 20th year with the league in August, has played a critical role in transforming and expanding MLS, which included awarding new franchises in Austin and Cincinnati; opening new stadiums in Minnesota, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and finding a new ownership group to keep the Columbus Crew in the city — all within the past year.
Garber also serves as a member of the board for the successful U.S.-Canada-Mexico World Cup 2026 bid, and being appointed as a member of FIFA’s Football Stakeholders Committee, which consists of many of the game’s top leaders.
ESPN's Jimmy Pitaro, Fanatics' Michael Rubin, Fox Sports' Eric Shanks and NBA's Adam Silver were also up for the sports executive award.
Founded in 2008, the Sports Business Awards, organized by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, are presented annually to recognize the best in the sports industry.