Last week FIFA President Sepp Blatter basically blasted Major League Soccer towards the end of an interview. One point among many that he made was that there’s “no very strong professional league” in the United States, and that since the 1994 World Cup, the MLS growth is nothing compared to Major League Baseball and the National Football League.
It would have been easy for MLS Commissioner Don Garber to rip FIFA and Blatter but he didn’t. Instead Garber made a class act move and invited Blatter to First Kick Weekend. Garber wants Blatter to see the MLS and its growth first hand.
“If he were to come to a game – whether it is in Seattle, Portland, Toronto, LA, Philadelphia, New York or any of our MLS markets – I think he would be very pleasantly surprised to see the passion that exists in our fan base and the high level of soccer IQ that exists in our fan base,” Garber said.
If Blatter does accept the invitation, look for Blatter to actually see how the MLS has grown since 1996. The first and only MLS game Blatter attended was the 1996 All-Star Game.
Garber looks forward to Blatter’s visit. There is a lot of improvement that Blatter can see on his visit. For example, the MLS shattered attendance records in 2012. This shows how the MLS has improved vastly since the beginning of the league, and how soccer is becoming more popular in the States.
“He would be impressed by the quality of play and the quality of the stadiums, and the knowledge and commitment of our local media and national press. We here all should feel good about what has happened in America.”
This classy reaction and invitation by Garber could end up paying dividends for both Garber and the MLS. Garber’s move puts the ball back in Blatter’s court. The next step is to see if Blatter accepts, declines, or ignores the invitation completely.