LAFC owner sees MLS passing baseball, hockey in popularity in U.S.

Los Angeles FC owner Larry Berg believes Major League Soccer will soon surpass baseball and hockey in the hierarchy of American sports while Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas expects the league to be better than the Premier League or La Liga within the next 25 years.

Berg and Mas were speaking on a panel to kick-start MLS’s 25th season, which begins Saturday.

Last season, Berg’s LAFC team ran rampant through the regular season, emerging as one of the best teams in league history while winning the Supporters’ Shield. It did, however, fall short in the postseason, losing to the eventual MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders.

LAFC appears poised to compete once again in 2020 as the club looks to build on a wildly successful first two seasons in MLS.

And Berg says that he believes the league will soon surpass two of the traditional big four sports in America within the next few years.

“We definitely have the demographics in our favor, both in terms of youth and diversity,” Berg said. “So I think we’ll pass baseball and hockey and be the No. 3 sport in the U.S. behind football and basketball.

“I think we will be the league of choice. I think we’re already a league of choice to a certain extent; 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,” he added. “We’re the United States of America. People want to live here. It’s an incredible lifestyle. The infrastructure is fantastic.”

While Berg set a number of domestic targets for MLS, Mas believes MLS can grow into a powerhouse in global soccer.

“I think MLS will be one of the top sports leagues in the United States,” Mas said. “I think it will be on par or exceed the best leagues in the world, the Premier League or Serie A or La Liga worldwide.

“I think that the MLS 25 years from now will be Premier League-ish if we want to so-call it that on the metrics that leagues are measured by.”

U.S. men’s national team boss Gregg Berhalter also has an optimistic view of the future of the league.

The coach, who led the Columbus Crew from 2014-18, says the sheer resources behind the league will be enough to push it forward with big signings and higher quality coming in as a result.

“I see in the 25 years, the whole world watching our game on television,” he said. “The production quality that we can produce in America, we’re going to be the leader in soccer.”

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