American Football Names MLS Commissioner Don Garber as Winner of 2022 Werner Fricker Builder Award
CHICAGO (March 11, 2022) – US Soccer today named Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber the 2022 winner of its prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award. Garber has served as the league’s commissioner since 1999 and has played a crucial role in the growth of the sport in North America during his tenure.
The Werner Fricker Builder Award is given to an individual or group of individuals who dedicate at least 20 years of service to the sport, working to establish a lasting legacy in the history and structure of football in the United States. First awarded in 2002, the award recognizes those who have developed programs that will outlast their own involvement in the sport.
“We are extremely proud to add Don Garber to this distinguished list of contributors to the game in our country,” said American Football President Cindy Parlow Cone. “When the story of the unprecedented growth of our sport in the United States over the past two decades is written, Don will be among the giants whose profound impact forever changed its trajectory. He deserves our admiration and gratitude. .”
Throughout Garber’s 23-year tenure, MLS grew from 10 to 29 clubs, added diverse new owners, and entered into long-term deals with major broadcast outlets in the United States and around the world. Garber also led efforts to develop 26 soccer-specific stadiums in the United States and Canada, with more expected to open in the coming years. In 2019, he confirmed the league would be looking to expand to 30 teams.
One of Garber’s landmark achievements was the establishment of Soccer United Marketing (SUM) in 2002, which serves as the marketing arm of MLS and manages the league’s commercial rights as well as various other football properties such as Concacaf and Mexican Football Federation. Garber is the CEO of SUM, which was also US Soccer’s exclusive marketing partner for 20 years.
In 2006, Garber established the Designated Player Rule, which would revolutionize the way player transactions happened in the league by allowing teams to register up to three players whose total costs exceeded the salary budget cap. The rule paved the way with the signing of David Beckham from the LA Galaxy and continued to allow world-class international players to help elevate the stature of the league over the years with signings like Thierry Henry, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela, Lorenzo Insigne and many more. Additionally, U.S. national team players such as Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jesus Ferreira have been drafted as Designated Players over the past decade.
When creating the Designated Player Rule in 2006, Garber also required all MLS clubs to have youth academies, which has led to a significant increase in domestic talent levels over the past 15 years. Current US national team players Kellyn Acosta, Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Morris, Ricardo Pepi and dozens of other MLS club academy products have played for the US national team. Over the past two years, the league has created MLS NEXT and MLS NEXT Pro to create an integrated player journey from the youth ranks to the top MLS teams.
In 2007, Garber established MLS WORKS, the league’s corporate social responsibility program dedicated to addressing important social issues and improving communities. MLS WORKS creates national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertakes various initiatives that enrich and educate youth, create sustainable communities, and promote inclusion at all levels of the game.
During Garber’s tenure, MLS club owners invested more than $8 billion in stadiums and training facilities. MLS also has nearly 10,000 full-time people working for the league and its clubs, including many former players.
The New York native has been listed by Sports Business Daily as one of the 50 most influential people in the sports industry in the United States every year since 2005, and MLS has been honored as the League of the year by Sports Business Journal. He is also a member of the board of directors of the United States Soccer Federation.
Prior to joining MLS, Garber spent 16 years in various leadership positions within the National Football League. In 1996, he started NFL International, a division he led that was responsible for all aspects of NFL business outside of the United States.
The award is named after Werner Fricker, who served as president of American football from 1984 to 1990 and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992. Fricker is widely credited with playing a major role in organizing the Cup of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. States. Born in Yugoslavia and raised in Austria, Fricker lived his adult life in Pennsylvania, where he was the star midfielder for the United German Hungarians Philadelphia soccer club from 1954 to 1969 and was a member of the 1964 US Olympics.
US soccer president appoints Werner Fricker task force to review award nominations. The nomination and consideration process takes place annually with a maximum of one award given each year; however, the selection committee is not required to award the prize each year.
WERNER-FRICKER PRIZE RECIPIENTS
2002 Werner Fricker, Sr.
2003 Sunil Gulati
2006 Sal Rapaglia
2008 Bob Gansler
2010 Dr S. Robert Contiguglia
2011 Kevin Payne
2012 Hank Steinbrecher
2014 Richard Groff
2015 Bruce Arena
2016 Anson Dorrance
2017 Marie Harvey
2018 Tony DiCicco
2019 April Heinrichs
2020 Esse Baharmast
2022 Don Garber