Donovan has led the San Jose Earthquakes to two MLS Cup titles in three years.
John Todd/MLS/

Donovan, MLS speak out

Ivan Gazidis, deputy commissioner for Major League Soccer, Thursday said published reports of San Jose Earthquakes forward Landon Donovan signing with Bayer Leverkusen have been mischaracterized and that the option exercised by German club was a procedural formality and necessary for Leverkusen to continue to retain the player's rights.

"The agreement between Bayer Leverkusen and MLS has always contemplated that Leverkusen could exercise an option, so this is not a surprise," Gazidis said. "We have an excellent relationship and a great deal of respect for Leverkusen and have expressed our wish to discuss Landon's future with the club and, importantly, with Landon at the appropriate time before the end of the year. Our desire, of course, is to keep Landon in MLS for the long term and we know he is happy here."

The 22-year-old Donovan, who became one of the youngest Americans ever to sign a professional contract overseas when he joined Bayer Leverkusen in February 1999, is currently in the fourth year of a co-sharing agreement which was extended by two years on December 18, 2002.

Donovan had originally signed a two-year co-sharing agreement in 2001 which gave the Bundesliga club the right to recall the World Cup veteran at the end of the 2002 season. Leverkusen exercised that right to retain Donovan but new negotiations between MLS, Bayer Leverkusen and Donovan's agent, Richard Motzkin of SportsNet resulted in a new co-sharing arrangement.

As in the case of the first co-sharing deal between MLS and Bayer Leverkusen (2001-2002), the current deal also provided the German club an option on the forward's contract at the conclusion of the 2004 season, which the German club exercised on Wednesday.

Reached on Thursday, Donovan told "I look forward to working with MLS and Bayer Leverkusen to plan my future," Donovan said. "I am happy playing in MLS and for the Earthquakes, and I am excited about the possibility of winning more MLS Cup championships here in San Jose while also leading the U.S. national team back to the World Cup."

Since joining the Earthquakes in March 2001, Donovan has risen to the forefront of American soccer and pop culture, leading San Jose to two MLS Cup championships in his three seasons with the club and spearheading the U.S. national team's thrilling run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.