MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Friday shared the following message with club supporters ahead of the start of the 2017 MLS season on Friday, March 3.
Dear MLS Supporters,
With Major League Soccer kicking off its 22nd season tonight, I want to thank you for supporting your club and helping make MLS a “League of Choice.”
In 2016, more fans engaged with our games than ever before -- in our stadiums, via our great broadcast partners and via digital and social channels. Meanwhile, our clubs are attracting top talent from around the world. During this past offseason, MLS clubs signed more than a dozen new Designated Players at an average of 25 years old, the youngest group of new DPs in our history. We also saw U.S. national team players including Brad Guzan, Greg Garza and Jonathan Spector sign with MLS clubs, and new initiatives with Canada Soccer are resulting in players such as the Montréal Impact’s Generation adidas Canada signee Shamit Shome competing in our league. Our clubs are also developing future MLS stars as more than 22 players from MLS youth academies -- including 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy winner and D.C. United Academy product Ian Harkes -- signed first-team contracts during the offseason.
In 2017, we’re thrilled to have Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC join our league. Minnesota debuts tonight against the Portland Timbers in our season opener on FS1, while 55,000 fans will attend Atlanta’s first game Sunday night against the New York Red Bulls, also on FS1.
Two state-of-the-art venues open this year with Orlando City SC unveiling its new beautiful soccer-specific stadium on Sunday in front of a capacity crowd against NYCFC on ESPN. Atlanta United will play the first-ever sporting event in the city’s new downtown sports and entertainment venue on July 30. And after 20 years of hard work, D.C. United has broken ground on their new stadium, Audi Field.
In the midst of all of this investment on the ground, our broadcast partnerships continue to strengthen. MLS Opening Weekend features seven matches on national TV in the U.S. and Canada, including Saturday's clash between the LA Galaxy and defending Supporters' Shield-winners FC Dallas on Univision. We are excited to be back on the Univision network and look forward to more Univision network broadcasts than ever before.
In Canada, new broadcast agreements with TSN and TVA Sports mean every match featuring a Canadian club will be aired nationally. On Saturday, Toronto FC are away to Real Salt Lake on TSN, and the Montreal Impact take on the San Jose Earthquakes on TVA Sports. On Sunday, the Vancouver Whitecaps host the Philadelphia Union on TSN.
In addition to everything happening this year, there are 12 cities vying to secure four expansion teams, which would see the league grow to 28 clubs in the years to come.
And we have an exciting summer of soccer ahead. In July, MLS will take a brief break during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will feature many of our best players competing for the national teams of the U.S., Canada, Mexico and others in 14 stadiums across the United States. And on Aug. 2, the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target will be played at Soldier Field in downtown Chicago.
Our regular season concludes with Decision Day, on Oct. 22, when every team will play simultaneously at 4 p.m. ET to help determine which teams will qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. For a complete guide to the 2017 MLS season, click here.
On behalf of MLS, thank you for your support and best of luck for the 2017 season!
Commissioner Don Garber