Count Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber as a fan of the Colorado soccer fans, in particular Centennial 38
Garber was the keynote speaker Wednesday evening at the "Cheers to the Rapids" kickoff fundraiser held at the Paramount Theater. After receiving his own personalized Colorado-themed alternate jersey from Rapids President Tim Hinchey, Garber thanked the club's sponsors for their support of the team and League, and spent a good amount of his speech recognizing the growth and support of the Colorado soccer community.
"One of the great things that I think has been happening in our League is the emergence of a supporters culture," Commissioner Garber told the crowd. "We have fans in our League that are organized. Not just fans of their club, but they actually believe in the sport, they believe they play a role in driving the growth of the sport. And it's the emergence of this movement that is happening in this town, and is happening in the 19 markets that we have here in North America. Centennial 38 is a group that has come together - a bunch of different supporters groups that have come together - to organize as one."
Over the offseason the Bulldogs Supporters, Pid Army, and Class VI supporters groups joined efforts to become one unified voice. Commissioner Garber met with a handful of C38 members, who he said informed him that C38 are nearly 1000 strong, and that they host one of the best tailgate parties MLS.
"I want to say to the supporters that it isn't always easy," Garber said. "The league isn't always going to get it right, the club isn't always get it right. But I want you to know that we deeply care about you and the role that you're playing in building this sport. We're going to try to listen to that which you have to say. We want you to know that it is a new era for pro sports, and certainly for pro soccer. And giving the fan a voice is something that we are encouraged by, something we're very interested in doing."
The Commissioner praised the support that owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment has provided the club, and thanked Chief Executive Jim Martin and Josh Kroenke, who were in attendance.
He then reminded everyone in the room that they are being recognized across the country.
"The fans have shown that this is a market that the rest of North America should pay attention to," Garber closed. "The March 22 World Cup Qualifier sold out in a matter of hours. That's not something that could be done in every market, and it's not something that could have been done (here) many years ago. It's a credit to what this community has done to show that you care about the game. All of us in Major League Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Federation have been looking at this market as one that really can get behind the game at all levels."
The Commissioner then thanked everyone that has played a role in supporting the sport and League for the past 18 years.
"It's always been a great soccer market from the youth level," he said. "Now that youth movement is growing up, becoming supporters, becoming decision makers and influencers. I really want to say thank you - not just to those of you that are here today - but to everybody in the community that's helped be part of that process."