On Tuesday night, Major League Soccer kicked off their 16th season in Seattle, marking the third straight season that Qwest Field was the backdrop for MLS First Kick. Before the match MLS Commissioner Don Garber spared a few minutes to talk with SoundersFC.com.
Q: You’re back again for a third year for First Kick. What is it about Seattle that draws that event each year?
A: It’s that March to the Match. It’s seeing all those green and blue logoed people packing pubs and showing the love for their team. This is a good place to kick our season off, but I’m sure we’ll have other markets in the next couple of years that will host First Kick.
Q: Talk about the addition of Vancouver and Portland and what it means for the growth of MLS and soccer in Seattle?
A: This is going to be a tremendous story for us, being able to show, not just the country and the sports community, but the rest of the world what derbies are. This concept of local teams playing against each other in virtual neighborhoods. In London they’re all a few blocks away, but this is a big country so they are a few states away, but they’re still close enough to travel by bus or have people get in their cars and support their club in somebody else’s home. That’s kind of cool.
Q: There have been rivalries in this league before. How much are the elements of those rivalries amplified here in the northwest?
A: I think we have a good story to tell. I hope this can be a bit of a showcase for what passionate rivalries could be so we can go to the I-95 corridor on the east coast and have New York and Philly and Montreal and New England and DC replicate some of the experiences that we have here. Certainly the Real Salt Lake proximity to the Colorado Rapids is another example of that. Columbus and Kansas City and Chicago. The great thing about being an emerging sport is that fans love to see what the other guys are doing to try and replicate it in their own home town. We’re going to have a great test tube here and a great showcase.
Q: Looking at the designated player rule. A few teams this year have used the rule to keep players in the states and in MLS. Did you envision the rule that way when it was instituted?
A: The rule has been envisioned and still maintains this philosophy of signing players that make an impact off the field and at the same time hopefully it’s a good signing that can make an impact on the field. Fredy Montero is an example of that. He’s part of the character of this club. He’s a good player and we were able to keep him by making him a designated player, but it’s still much more about the David Beckhams and Thierry Henrys of the world and trying to bring big name players that can convert people that are watching that ManU game right now into being a fan of Major League Soccer and their local club.