A blockbuster deal involving the teenage star of the Vancouver Whitecaps is one of the great stories in world soccer, says the league’s commissioner.
Don Garber said Alphonso Davies’ record-breaking transfer also shows the strength of the league.
The Whitecaps signed a US$22-million transfer deal in July that will see the 17-year-old Canadian midfielder play for German soccer giant Bayern Munich next year.
“Having a kid that’s getting a record transfer fee associated with him being developed in Major League Soccer has the rest of the world looking and saying the league is on the rise, getting the game right and needs to be taken seriously,” Garber said in Vancouver Friday, where he spoke with media and toured the Whitecaps training facility.
“It says a lot about the (Whitecaps’) ambition, it says a lot about the potential for developing players here in Canada and it says a lot about Alphonso Davies.”
Garber met Davies during the recent bid for the 2026 World Cup when the young man spoke to FIFA members on behalf of Canada Soccer. Their paths crossed again at the MLS all-star game in August, where Davies was the commissioner’s pick.
“He’s just a wonderful young man,” Garber said. “I’m really happy for him, pleased for his family and happy for the Whitecaps.”
The transfer — the biggest ever in the league’s history — is both a blessing and a curse, Garber said, because it stokes further interest from international clubs in talented young athletes developed by MLS teams.
The league is also growing, adding teams in Cincinnati, Miami and Nashville over the next two years, increasing competition for star players at home, too.
Garber said the MLS’ biggest challenge at the moment is managing growth as it moves from 23 to 26 clubs.
“It used to be sort of figuring out how we could be viable,” he said. “And now it’s, with all the momentum that we have, how do we make sure we’re making the right decisions?”
Decisions have to be made about whether resources should be invested in player development, marketing, facilities or other areas, he added.
One thing that won’t change as the league grows, Garber said, is the high-quality of soccer on the field.
Anyone concerned about a lack of available talent should know that clubs continue to access a global pool of players as they groom their own young stars, the commissioner said.
Even the league’s three Canadian teams are spending tens of millions of dollars to develop talent and that’s affecting the national soccer program, he added.
Last weekend, the Canadian men’s team trounced the U.S. Virgin Islands 8-0 in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifier.
Davies is one of four Whitecaps players on the national squad.
“People that love the game here should be thinking about what positive impact that’s had on the Canadian national team,” Garber said. ”So I think the future is bright for soccer in Canada.”
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press