Don Garber

The commissioner of Major League Soccer for nearly 20 years, during which American first-division pro soccer moved from a struggling enterprise to a thriving one.

Garber, who had worked for the National Football League for 16 years, was named MLS commissioner in the summer of 1999. At that time, MLS had 10 teams and its attendance average had dropped from 17,000 in its first season to less than 14,000. By the time Garber was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016, it had expanded to 20 teams, with plans in progress for four more, and attendance had risen to more than 21,000 per game.

Among MLS’ accomplishments under Garber’s leadership were the building of numerous soccer specific stadiums, the widening of the league’s ownership and the expansion of its television exposure. When Garber became commissioner in 1999, there was only one soccer-specific stadium in MLS, in Columbus. In the next 17 years, the league added 13 more, in Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Orlando, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Jose and Montreal. The 10 teams in MLS in 1999 were owned by only three different owners, but by 2017 the 20 teams were owned by 19 different owners. In the league’s earliest years, it had to buy air time to get its games on television, but by 2016 it had graduated to sought-after status and was appearing frequently on ESPN, Fox and several other networks.

Inducted in 2016.