MLS Commissioner Don Garber hailed the runaway commercial success of FC Cincinnati, shared a few tidbits about the league’s new gaming partnership with MGM Resorts International and provided an update on the Inter Miami expansion project in an appearance on Yahoo! Finance TV on Wednesday.
Speaking at the IEG World Sports Sponsorship Conference in Chicago, Garber revealed that 2019 expansion newcomers FCC have already vaulted into the top echelon of MLS teams in terms of season-ticket sales, and pointed to that as evidence that pro soccer can flourish in almost any city in North America.
“I really believe that,” said Garber. “I never would've thought that you'd have 32,000 people at an opening game for Cincinnati, and 25,000 season tickets [sold] – I mean, they’re in the top 3 in Major League Soccer today, and there’s no real professional soccer history there. So this has all evolved over the last number of years.
“I think it bodes well for MLS, but also bodes well for the second leagues and the third leagues. Think about where baseball is – they’ve got hundreds of professional teams, they’re just operating at different levels.”
Garber also offered strong praise for David Beckham’s efforts in getting Inter Miami off the ground alongside the rest of that club’s ownership group, noting that he gathered members of that group for a “social dinner” with FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Concacaf boss Victor Montagliani.
Asked about the gaming deal with MGM announced this week, Garber expressed excitement, while adding that MLS member clubs have the freedom to sort out their best courses of action as individual US states take varying approaches to that space, which is entering a phase of rapid growth in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to legalize sports betting.
“MGM was so focused on understanding what it was that we were looking for with a partner: Fan engagement, how to effectively utilize data to be able to connect current fans and potential fans with the unique engagement, this concept of sports betting,” said Garber. “And they’re really smart, they really understand the sports space – they are in the business of putting on sports events, and they’re clearly really sharp and have an analytical approach to sports betting.”