HOUSTON -- Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber visited the Houston Dynamo’s new stadium on Friday, the eve of its opening, and talked about the expansion of the league.
Garber raved about BBVA Compass Stadium and the growth of soccer in Houston.
"Houston ... is a market where we could turn to and show how deeply the sport has been embedded," he said. "We can turn to Houston and use it as a shining example. What has been missing up until (Saturday) is a soccer-specific stadium."
Garber is aware of a clause in the recently-approved financing plan for a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings that gives the team sole discretion to host any major league soccer team in that stadium.
"I think Minneapolis is a good market," he said. "We have had discussions with the Vikings in the past and I think it goes on the list."
He said the league is interested in expanding, but was quick to note that any such moves would not come soon.
"I try to impress upon all of our people that this expansion project is a 20-year process," he said. "It’s not a two or three year process and I can’t imagine that 20 years from now, we’re not in markets like Miami or Minneapolis or in Atlanta if a new stadium is built. I think we’ll be in most major markets. We have to be, it’s a big country."
Garber touted the importance of soccer-specific stadiums on Friday. But says things are fine for most MLS teams which share a stadium, except for D.C. United at RFK Stadium. He says the high operating costs there make it "an untenable situation that has got to change."
"That market and those players and that club deserves progress," he said. "We have to work hard to try to figure it out."
BBVA Compass is a 22,000-seat stadium in downtown Houston, where the Dynamo will host their first game on Saturday against D.C. United. The Dynamo, who have won the MLS Cup championship two times, have played in the University of Houston’s Robertson Stadium since moving to the city from San Jose in 2006.
Dynamo president Chris Canetti can’t wait until Saturday to showcase his team’s new $95 million home.
"We know that soccer has arrived, the Dynamo have arrived and this stadium truly is a big reason for that and is symbolic of all the great growth we have had," he said.
Garber said the addition of more soccer-specific stadiums is a key to the league’s continued growth and he seemed almost as excited about the stadium’s opening as Canetti.
"We’ll have kind of a lump in our throats (Saturday)," he said. "It’s going to be a very special moment for the league."