MLS Commissioner Don Garber rejects retirement home label after Neymar’s comments

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, while he appreciates interest from players like Neymar and Lionel Messi, warned soccer’s global stars that U.S. clubs aren’t their retirement homes.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s MLS season kickoff, Garber addressed the comments made by 30-year-old Brazilian striker Neymar, who on a podcast said that he “would love to play in the U.S.” for at least a season after his deal with Paris Saint-Germain expires in 2025.

The former Barcelona star noted: “Their season is shorter so I would get three months vacation. I would play many more years.”

Garber said MLS had outgrown the days of needing to bolster its image with big-name players in their later years.

“We don’t need to bring in a big name player at the end of their career because they decided they want to retire in MLS,” Garber said in a conference call with reporters.

“We want our story to be about young players coming here at the earliest stages or in the prime of their career and making our league their league of choice.”

Colombian James Rodriguez, 30, and Argentine standout Messi, 34, have also been linked to MLS.

Garber pointed to 30-year-old Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri joining the Chicago Fire this season, saying, “You have players coming at 30. I don’t think 30 is old when you are an MLS player.”

Garber also noted that when Swedish 40-year-old striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the Los Angeles Galaxy for AC Milan in December 2019, “nobody said he went to retire in Italy.”

MLS will grow to 28 teams when an expansion team in Charlotte takes the field this year and to 29 when St. Louis joins in 2023.

Garber noted that MLS was among the top five leagues worldwide in transfer fees received and spent.

“Like all the top leagues around the world, it’s about buying and selling players,” Garber said. “It’s very clear there’s a global demand around the world for our young, talented players.”

Garber said the league hopes to maintain a healthy balance between paying for players and selling young talent from a growing academy network.

Garber, a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors, also congratulated USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone on Tuesday’s announcement of a settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against federation by the U.S. women’s national team, the reigning Women’s World Cup champion, that will ensure equal pay moving forward.

“If it wasn’t for her focus and her courage and her steadfastness, I don’t think she would have been able to lead us to the settlement that was announced today,” Garber said of Cone.

“I think it’s time for the organization to move forward with the women’s program and repair some of the challenges they’ve had in the relationship.”

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