Don Garber surprised by Blatter’s criticism of MLS

The MLS commissioner defended his league's growth after it was attacked by the FIFA president earlier in the week.
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was among the many taken aback by FIFA president Sepp Blatter's criticism of the league's progress.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Blatter was unmerciful in his criticism of MLS, saying that “there is no very strong professional league” in the United States.

Blatter intimated that MLS should have become more ingrained in American culture, and was disappointed it hadn't reached a level where it could challenge Major League Baseball and the National Football League in the 18 years since it was first founded.

“We had the World Cup in 1994,” Blatter said. “But we are now in 2012 — it’s been 18 years; it should have been done now.”

Garber defended his league's progress.

“We still have a lot of work to do. We understand and accept that,” Garber told the New York Times.

“But arguably there’s probably not another sports league in the world that has achieved as much as we have in the last 20 years.”

After struggling to stay afloat in the early 2000s, the league has made strong progress in the past decade, expanding from 10 teams in 2004 to 19 in 2012. The league has also added nine soccer-specific stadiums since 2007.

“I know that the president believes in American soccer and believes in the league,” Garber said.

“Sometimes I think these things happen when you’re not here for a while. When you’re not here or travel much to the U.S., it’s hard to fully understand what the sports market is like here."

Garber also extended a personal invitation for the FIFA president to attend a match in the 2013 season.

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