Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis has a soft spot for Major League Soccer.
After helping to set the league up in the mid-90’s and then working his way to becoming Deputy Commissioner under Don Garber, maybe that’s no surprise.
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However when ProSoccerTalk spoke with Gazidis last weekend at Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Burnley, the reigning PL CEO of the Year had the following to say about the impact of MLS on soccer in the U.S. and it’s growth.
“I think MLS is on a fantastic growth trajectory,” Gazidis said. “The Premier League, international football generally and the World Cup, all of these things give added impetus to what’s happening in MLS. Their journey is a long term one. I don’t think anyone should fool themselves there that MLS is going to become the go-to league in the next few years but it will continue to develop over time.”
Gazidis’ former boss Garber has been championing the rallying call that MLS “will become one of the world’s top league’s by 2022.” Well, it seems as though Gazidis believes that timeline is a little off and there’s a long, long way to go before MLS makes it mark on the world stage in the way league officials are hoping.
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Recalling his time spent building MLS from the bottom up to where it is today, Gazidis believes that MLS is established and soccer in the U.S. is being helped, instead of hindered, by having various competitions such as the Premier League readily available on TV and online for American consumers.
“I remember back in 1994 and 1995 we were called “Mythical League Soccer” because nobody believed we would actually get the league off the ground,” Gazidis revealed. “In the first two or three years every single interview I did was about ‘how long will the league survive?’ Then next few years was ‘is soccer every going to make it in the States?’ Now, those types of questions are very out of date. MLS is established, it is permanent and clearly on a growth path and on a long-term journey. I think it benefits from the exposure that soccer gets so I think it really benefits from the Premier League, in the same way as the Championship in England benefits from the exposure of top level football. It pulls everybody up.”
When it comes to MLS being compared to the best leagues in the world, it is always a tricky task. First of all, MLS doesn’t play on FIFA’s winter schedule like most of the world, there is salary cap and a different way in doing things than the rest of world soccer which makes MLS almost completely separate from other leagues in its structure and therefore hard to make comparisons over the overally quality of play on the pitch. Gazidis is obviously a huge fan of North America’s top-flight but is also a realist and his comments will act as a reminder of just how far MLS still has to go in order to be considered anywhere near the top leagues in Europe.
Switching gears, Gazidis also touched on the fact that he is “not happy” with Arsenal’s season by the Chief Executive of the Gunners is expecting a strong finish to the 2014-15 campaign and already has an eye on next season.
“We are not happy but we are going to keep pushing to the end and see how far we can go,” Gazidis said. “We are happy with the way the squad has developed and we are very focused how we can make a positive end to the season. After that it will be a question of how can we progress the team further so that we can have an even better season next year. We have a squad that’s clearly coming together. It’s a relatively young squad so it will continue to improve.”