Don Garber Complains There’s Too Much Soccer On TV; Wants NFL Model

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has lost his marbles. In an interview yesterday with AP Sports Editors, Garber said:

”There’s more soccer on [US] television than any other sport by far. You’ve got European soccer. You’ve got Mexican soccer. You’ve got Major League Soccer. There’s way too much soccer on television. I think all of us got to figure out a way to narrow that window so you can get a situation like the NFL has, a couple of days a week, short schedule, something that’s very compelling and very targeted.”

This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone complaining about the quantity of soccer on US television. While the vast majority of soccer fans rejoice at the quality and quantity of soccer coverage available, here you actually have a soccer executive whining about it. Instead, he wants to model the sport after a league that only runs twice a week from September through January.

The reason why there’s more soccer on television than any other sport is because it’s the world’s most popular sport. There’s a growing demand for quality soccer on US television as evidenced by multi-million dollar TV deals, new networks, impressive ratings growth and the continued rise in popularity of Mexican soccer and the national team on US TV. At the same time, the demand for Major League Soccer on television is underwhelming to say the least. As one example, only 58,000 people tuned in last weekend to watch a MLS game between LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City, two of the most successful teams in the league this season.

Soccer is America’s second-most popular sport among 12-24 year olds, yet Garber wants to reduce the quantity of games so they’re played across a shorter schedule with smaller windows. While Garber has a lot of power to make such changes in Major League Soccer, there’s absolutely no chance that any of the other leagues or associations in the world will start reducing the amount of games played or the number of matches televised.

The direction the sport is heading is that more games will be more accessible than ever before, on more devices and in greater quantity and quality.

It’s almost as if Garber is throwing his arms in the air, declaring that MLS can’t win the TV ratings battle and is blaming it on the “glut of soccer on American television.” MLS TV ratings are underwhelming not because of the quantity of soccer on US television. They’re poor because Major League Soccer lacks relevance, authenticity, consistent TV times, a highlights package and quality TV production. A league that is growing on the local level where tickets are worth the price of admission doesn’t mean that the TV product is something that Americans nationwide are interested in watching.

Instead of complaining that there’s too much soccer on US television, it’s time for Garber to make constructive changes to make the league more attractive to television. Despite his 16 years at the National Football League, that model is not the one to follow.


44 thoughts on “Don Garber Complains There’s Too Much Soccer On TV; Wants NFL Model”

  1. If there’s one thing MLS doesn’t lack, it’s highlights. MLS has them free, plentiful and archived online. ANYONE with a computer can get them. MLS is leagues ahead of the EPL in that area.

    MOTD just doesn’t do it for me. Don’t want to wade through other teams’ stuff just to see my own team.

    1. I’m talking about a TV highlights package similar to the Premier League Review Show. It doesn’t exist.

      While online highlights are great, TV review shows attract a much wider audience.

      The Gaffer

      1. Hmm… it could use it, but if TV viewing isn’t good, the review show wouldn’t be worth the investment just yet.

        1. I disagree. The Review Show is the perfect way to attract new viewers to MLS, to get them interested in the league and to encourage them to watch full-length matches. A weekend full of games squeezed into 60 minutes would be perfect. I still can’t believe that MLS doesn’t have that in place after all of these years.

          The Gaffer

          1. MLS had review shows for years on Fox. They were terrible for the most part and no one watched them. Some of the driest Canadian humor one could imagine. If they did a high quality review show then we’d be talking. MLS doesn’t seem to know how do do these types of things. Highlights on their webpage are equally poor even though they’ve slightly improved.

      2. “While online highlights are great, TV review shows attract a much wider audience.”

        That’s such an outdated view of media. Nobody sits through a highlights show when you can just go online and see them instantly on the Internet. You’re probably also a big fan of weather segments on the news.

            1. Edofcourse, I decided not to answer Barry’s question since it didn’t need answering, but you summed up it perfectly.

              The Gaffer

      3. EPL needs to post match highlights on their website for free like MLS does or even YouTube. As for an MLS highlights show on tv, I think it could work with the right announcers.

        1. All of the official Premier League highlights are posted for free on EPL Talk every evening there are games, as well as on the source website –

          The Gaffer

  2. And it lacking consistent TV times, that’s mostly to stagger showings SO THAT fans can catch most games if they wish.

    Can’t do that in good ol’ Europe, where TV rules are draconian to protect stadium attendance.

    MLS mostly lacks in quality, but the growth the past ten years can’t be denied.

    I can’t agree with Garber though. As much soccer as possible is good. After all, MLS matches come on WELL after Europe’s are done.

  3. Dear Mr. Garber, Mr. Abbott, and other high-ranking MLS officials:

    1. Please work to continue to improve your product so that guys ages 18-34 will have a reason to watch every week.

    2. MLS is only as strong as its weakest links For all the success Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver have, MLS has to deal with basket cases such as Chivas USA, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls, and FC Dallas (not to mention DC United, which has deteriorated over the years.)

    3. Please stop whining about too much soccer on TV and spend your time fixing your products first. Chivas USA and Toronto FC are obviously your most urgent problems.

    4. Please position your products for the market conditions you have, not the market conditions you wish to have.

    Thank you very much.

    1. FC Dallas’´attendance has been very good the past year and a half. No portland, but still quite good. Look up highlights to see the crowd.

  4. The funny thing about this is that the NFL is actually looking to expand. They’ve already gone from Sunday & Monday to adding Thursday. The debate about expanding the schedule from 16 to 18 games has been had on numerous occasions and the way the NFL has spaced out it’s events makes it an almost year round sport (when you factor in the length of the season, the combine, free agency and the draft there is only about a month or 2 of non NFL related events before training camp starts). And all of that is just the NFL, when you factor in college football there are games nearly everyday of the week during the season. Garber clearly knows nothing about the American Football model. Seems like he’s a bit jealous of the numbers that the foreign leagues are pulling in.

  5. Glad to see he has finally recognized that MLS has to compete with leagues around the world for our attention. Sad to see that his response is to express a desire to limit our viewing options rather than develop MLS into a more compelling product.

    Thankfully, he will have absolutely no luck in limiting the amount on television.

  6. The guy is an idiot. What he meant to say is “let’s limit all these more popular leagues so people will have to watch my MLS”

    1. The head of the Asian Football Confederation said pretty much the same thing about 15 years ago.

      Eventually, the market corrects itself.

      Serie A and the Bundesliga faded away in Asia, leaving EPL and La Liga as the only viable products on weekends.

      The local leagues in Asia never took off. Too much organized crime involvement.

      MLS is still a long way from reaching “major league” status. The rights fees MLS is now getting is not a function of quality, but is a function of supply and demand: too many new TV networks chasing too few viable live event products. NBC is willing to (over)pay for MLS because ESPN and FOX have locked up all the Tier 1 products during the summer.

      Would be interesting to see which company will end up with the “Tier 1” MLS package in 2015 now that ESPN is clearly cutting back on soccer (after losing the World Cup and EPL: Liga MX is strictly filler for ESPNEWS and ESPN2 during dead time as that product does NOT sell to English-speaking viewers) and NBC now has EPL as its new shiny toy.

      1. What the hell do you know about soccer? Aren’t you that loser that still lives in his mother’s basement? Go get laid and stop talking about something you have no clue about.

  7. Way to take his quote out of context. He’s not “complaining”, he’s just saying MLS faces a lot of competition so they have to figure out a way to stand out by packaging MLS as “something that’s very compelling and very targeted.” He’s not trying to take your EPL away.

  8. I mean, I can sympathize with the guy a little bit. I don’t agree with him, but it’s probably very hard to launch a soccer league in the US when the EPL has basically wall-to-wall coverage, and if that isn’t enough you can watch all the other big European leagues. And now you can watch Mexican games on ESPN in English too.

    It would be really hard to grow a league under such circumstances. I’ve heard people say before that the United States already does have a world class league…’s just that its the EPL.

    It also syncs with something I like to point out about the MLS. I live in the southeast US. The closest MLS club to me is DC United. That’s 6 hours away. From a functional standpoint, I’m not sure that there is much difference between supporting a club that is 6 hours away and a club that is 3000 miles away (you’re not going to live games either way).

    1. This.

      MLS failed miserably in Florida (Tampa and Fort Lauderdale) over a decade ago and has avoided the Southeast, where College Football (notably the Southeastern Conference) and NASCAR are king.

      MLS will always point to the Pacific Northwest as examples of success.

      However, for every Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, MLS has major headaches in Chivas USA, Toronto FC, NY Red Bulls, and now DC United. Until those clubs are fixed, MLS will always have to play catch-up against EPL (in the English-speaking market) and Liga MX (in the Spanish-speaking market, as Liga MX does NOT sell on ESPN2 and ESPNEWS.)

  9. Gaffer: agreed: the NFL model is NOT the one to follow for soccer in the US (and for MLS in particular).

    I am part disgusted and part amused by the “announcement of the 20th MLS team coming to a theatre near you in a few weeks”. Is this really happening?

    I will go back to my 2 MAJOR sticking points w/ MLS: single table/playoffs and no promotion/relegation. Rewarding merit and punishing mediocrity is good for ANY sport; it’s actually good for almost ANY activity and it is part of human nature. But, no, the single entity chains of the “rich guys club” won’t allow it to happen. (I know, I know, America is too big; the soccer culture is not developed yet; can you imagine the Carolina Railhawks in MLS, etc.).

    And with Garber at the helm, I don’t see anything good happening for MLS. The guy has reached his limitations as a commissioner. The league is relatively stable, time to move on and have someone else take the league to the next level, both structure-wise and quality of soccer-wise.

    And now, he is looking for an excuse for the bad TV ratings of the league. If the product on the field was at a top level, trust me, Donnie, the numbers will go up. I would be the first one to tune in to Timbers/Earthquakes rather than, say, Valencia/Atletico Madrid…

    I acknowldege that this is a young league and that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Donnie has run his course at the helm, time to go!

    1. “I will go back to my 2 MAJOR sticking points w/ MLS: single table/playoffs and no promotion/relegation.”

      Typical eurosnob nonsense. If MLS ever implements pro/rel and switches to a single table you and the rest of your kind will just find something else to bitch about.

  10. The guy undersells MLS all the time, and he’s upset that other leagues are more cutthroat.

    Here’s the thing – if he were successful to limit EPL, La Liga, and others, it would only benefit the other major sports in the US. MLS is improving, but Garber and the league needs to start taking greater steps to improve its competitiveness on the open market.

  11. Shame on you Christopher Harris. How dare you call yourself a journalist? You very damn well know that’s not what he meant. You’re purposely taking Don Garber out of context to fill up a slow news day. This is tabloid garbage.

  12. the commish is right, as long as nobody watches MLS, then soccer will continue to be a niche sport in the USA.

  13. Slow freaking newsday!

    The guy decides to slag MLS based on one quote! One god damn quote!

    Stick your blog and your resume up your ass.

    Bloggers aren’t journalists.


  14. LOL…. Its not that there is “Too Much” Soccer, It’s that there are choices for better football than the MLS can provide (like the new NBC BPL deal).

    This comment is akin to the commissioner of the arena american football league coming out and saying theres “Too Much” american football. The NFL is everywhere!…too many choices my arse.

    I cant believe he is the commissioner of a sport that he thinks there is too much coverage for.

    What a joke…to much Mexican football? only if you look for it… the same with the BPL .. how do you get it if you dont have fox soccer or foxsoccertogo?

    This is just someone that wants more share for his product… it has nothing to do with a genuine saturation point of anything.

    A model like the NFL?… what a joke… the NFL season is 3 months long but is still the number one covered sport all year round in the US… NFL Network, Sports Centre..ITS everywhere… time for this guy to retire I think.

    There are too many Smartphones, too many types of Cereal, too many Nike products, too many news programs…

    I would expect he would be gone pretty soon from his position

  15. Garber is a typical American living in a bubble and who hasn’t quite realized that people can tune into whatever sports they want to at anytime anywhere. What does he propose? That we ration soccer to viewers interested in games all over the world?

    I cannot believe this idiot is the MLS Commissioner. What planet is he living on? People are interested in watching, and will pay for, any product that is worthwhile. Otherwise it would not be watched.

  16. Perhaps a lot of us have a preference for European Football because it seldom competes with the American Big Four, especially the Champions League.

    I could bet the reason why International football is proliferating in the US is because of those like myself who like to follow certain clubs outside of the Champions League or/and enable an opportunity to reconnect with their heritage.

    Lastly, while the MLS still has potential to gain a larger piece of the American Sports pie, it needs to stop treating itself as a sanctuary from the better known contact sports and start modeling itself after the various leagues in Europe.

    Go single table; add clubs in San Diego, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Miami and MLS may be eventually regarded as level with the nPower championship.

  17. I don’t buy that argument.

    Frankly I LIKE that there is so much variety in soccer. If I get bored with the Premier League, I can check out La Liga or Bundesliga or MLS.

    Also it’s not a zero sum game where one American fan gained by the Premier League is one lost by MLS. Getting Americans to like soccer is the hard part, once they’re hooked they’ll watch the Premier League and maybe help MLS.

    It’s mutally benefitical but Garber is such a doofus he’s gotten it completley backwards.

    All he’s done is reinforce the notion that MLS is small potatoes and is desperate for viewers.

  18. You see, Don Garber’s whole sports world is one in which a cartel system has been well in place for years. To him and his generation, “soccer” was a pastime that was played in the suburbs, where moms and dads take their kids in the minivan to have them play a bunch of games with other kids, as well as other activities.

    He, I think, doesn’t understand the true football culture. One where people in cities and even parts of cities take pride in their local clubs. Clubs are formed based on the wants of the communities where they’re located in. Some clubs after years of play get big enough that they become big clubs. Clubs that we are familiar with start off as small ventures and then through market capture and winning become known entities throughout the world.

    In the States, teams are organized based on a top-down structure done for the benefit of a few elites who desire to limit competition. This is one of just a myriad of weaknesses of the American sporting culture. For a fan used to the true association football, MLS teams feel artificial. This is not about playoffs or all the other nonsense. It’s about a sense of belonging, a gathering point for a community to gather around and root for the same interest. Because association football is worldwide, it is hard to contain, to box in. All the best you can do is look for the advantages available to you and run with them.

    What is a Chivas USA if not a lame attempt to capitalize on a foreign brand name? Same with NY Red Bulls. At least team names like Timbers, Earthquakes or Sounders each have a heritage. A name like Real Salt Lake has no immediate connection to the city in which its located in. It was a name forced on them by a cartel owner who thought it would be cute to put the word “Real” on the team’s name because of Real Madrid. Worst possible reason to do that!

    In essence, part of what’s holding MLS back is having to compete in a crowded sports marketplace, following the cartel system that stifles innovation and discourages community identity with the teams, run by people who have a faint idea of the true culture of football and the artificiality encouraged by the top-down nature of the cartel system.

  19. The NFL model argument is dumb.

    Is he advocating a 14 game season so every game takes on more meaning?

    Funny how that doesn’t hurt Major League Baseball (second biggest American league in terms of revenue behind the NFL) even though they have a 162 game regular season.

    NFL has the quality (in terms of meaningful regular season games), MLB has quantity (sheer number of games, gametime, and stats), NBA is like a mix of quantity and quality.

    Soccer’s strength is variety, you have so many leagues, you have meaningful national team competition which the NFL and MLB can only dream of. American football doesn’t have ANY meaningful international competition and the World Baseball Classic while nice it still a baby.

    Basketball is still too dominated by Americans.

    Soccer is about variety whether it’s competitions, trophies, teams and leagues. Maybe it’s a way of compensating for the low scoring but that’s how it is.

    For Garber to try to argue that this strength is a weakness is truely ignorant.

    Honestly I’m a MLS fan but if I wanted less soccer in my life I’d cut the MLS first.

  20. The route of all comments like these is money. Follow the money trail and you’ll discover he wants more in his pocket.

  21. “Major League Soccer lacks relevance, authenticity, consistent TV times, a highlights package and quality TV production.”

    A perfect summation of all that is wrong with MLS. It just simply doesn’t work on a national level. Nobody cares. NBC are partly to blame with their inconsistent scheduling.

  22. Where is the entire speech/conversation that this quote is taken from? It seems to be taken out of context, since there is no context.

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