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Building a brand that reflects your core values

This is an excerpt from Sport Business Handbook, The by Rick Horrow.

By Don Garber


There is a singular goal that drives us every day at Major League Soccer, and that is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world.


We will not be satisfied until we join the ranks of England's Premier League, Germany's Bundesliga, and Spain's La Liga as one of the elite properties in the world's most popular sport. There are three things we believe will get us to our goal: (1) the highest-quality product on the field, (2) the most engaging fan experience anywhere in state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadiums, and (3) cutting-edge, compelling content via our domestic and international media partners and social media channels. Whether an individual works for the MLS League Office or for one of our clubs, this is the shared mission among us. It is a vision shared by our owners and demanded by our fans.


For a professional sport league in just its third decade of existence, the progress on and off the field has truly been staggering. MLS was founded in 1996 with just 10 teams. Today we have 24 teams and will be at 28 in the coming years. The original business plan called for our clubs to be tenants in large NFL and college football stadiums. By 2019, 20 of our clubs will play in soccer stadiums that are appropriately sized and strategically located to be accessible to our young and increasingly urban fan base. We have more than 2,000 employees and more than 600 players; and we are particularly proud of the fact that now every MLS team has youth development academies and facilities that rival those of many of the top clubs from around the world. And almost 15 years ago—when we saw a rapidly growing interest within the business community in the sport here in North America—we created Soccer United Marketing, a comprehensive commercial soccer company that represents a wide variety of soccer properties in sponsorship, marketing, media, and game promotion.


It is particularly striking that this growth has taken place in the most competitive sport market in the world, with the added pressure from international soccer leagues and properties as well as countless entertainment options available to fans.


At the league office in New York City, we have hundreds of committed executives in many different business units that come to work every day knowing that they are delivering on the hopes and dreams of millions of soccer fans while working in an industry that provides great opportunities for personal and career growth. We recognize the unique and special relationship our employees have with the league and the sport of soccer. And we regularly empower them to take ownership of our vision and have responsibility for helping us achieve our goals.