Don Garber, 46, has been the commissioner of MLS for five years. This coming weekend, the Washington area and RFK Stadium will host the league's all-star festivities, featuring the 2004 MLS All-Star Game on Saturday at 2; it follows a legends game at 12:30.
GS: With MLS still seeking acceptance on the U.S. sports scene, the league's sale (all players are employed by MLS) of quality young players Bobby Convey of D.C. United to the English team Reading for $1.5 million and DaMarcus Beasley to Holland's PSV Eindhoven for $2.5 million was puzzling. Why sell good young players?
DG: If it was up to me, we would never sell a player and have all our good young players remain in MLS. But the reality is that we are in an international marketplace. Some players will spend their entire careers in MLS, others will leave and others will leave and return. But as long as the talent pool continues to be robust, the quality of play will continue to improve. The same day these transactions occurred, we signed Danny Szetela (17-year-old U.S. national team program member).
GS: The naming of Freddy Adu, 15, to the all-star team also was puzzling, because he's been a reserve for D.C. United much of the season, and MLS and D.C. United were cited by U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena for over-promoting him. Why was Adu selected?
DG: Our all-star game is an opportunity to celebrate soccer in America and provide our fans the chance to enjoy the day and have fun. Freddy was my choice to be included in the game because our fans want to see him. I agree that he's been under a lot of pressure. But he is a unique young man who has shown he can handle it.
GS: The recent announcement of the league expanding to Salt Lake City and moving a second team into Los Angeles only two years after teams in south Florida and Tampa folded prompts the question of why go to 12 teams now?
DG: We have great owners who have experience in just about every league in sports. We're all cognizant on the impact expansion has on a league. That's why we've taken our time adding teams. Expansion is about strategic growth and providing additional opportunities not only to players but to administrative personnel as well.