MLS owners predict league will surpass MLB, Premier League

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Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaks during the Major League Soccer 25th Season kickoff event in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Three days ahead of the Major League Soccer's 25th season, owners, executives and players gathered for a day of unbridled optimism and hyperbole.

Los Angeles FC lead owner Larry Berg predicted MLS will surpass Major League Baseball in popularity during the next 10 years and Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas maintained it will be of higher quality than the Premier League and La Liga by 2045.

MLS anticipates soccer's status in the U.S. will be boosted when the Americans co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.

"We definitely have the demographics in our favor, both in terms of youth and diversity. So I think we'll pass baseball and hockey and be the No. 3 sport in the U.S. behind football and basketball," Berg said Wednesday at the league's kickoff event.

MLS expanded to 26 teams this season with the addition of David Beckham's Inter Miami and Nashville, and plans are in place to reach 30 franchises by 2022 — triple the league's low from 2002-04. The league has increasingly attracted better players from South America, and Berg called youth academies the league's "crown jewel.”

“The academies will be pumping out just incredible talent, which will help both the league and the U.S. men's national team such that we will vault way past Liga MX and the U.S. men's national team will vault way past Mexico, and then it will come down to the media deals. ... Whether we can be a top-five league or a top-three league will really come down at the end of the day to money, our ability to compete for players.”

“I think the good news is players want to play here,” Berg added. “We're the United States of America. People want to live here. It's an incredible lifestyle. The infrastructure is fantastic.”

Mas partnered with Beckham, the former England captain Beckham, and envisioned the league's 50th year in 2045.