Landon Donovan announced his impending retirement on Thursday, saying that when the LA Galaxy are done for this season, he's done for his career. Already people are trying to express how big of an impact Donovan has had on American soccer and the MLS.
One man who should have a pretty good idea of what Donovan has meant to the MLS going back the last 13 years and his decision to stay Stateside instead of going to Europe full-time is MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
The league has grown leaps and bounds and Donovan is hardly the only star/big-name player in the MLS anymore but Garber knows without Donovan much of the MLS' growth wouldn't have been possible. So after Donovan's announcement was made, Garber took the task of describing just how much Donovan meant to the league.
Hint: When you are compared to Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods, you know you had a pretty big impact.
In case that's tough to read, here's the statement again:
There is no doubt that Major League Soccer would not be what it is today without Landon Donovan. His decision to join the MLS in 2001 was a statement to the entire soccer community, at the most crucial time in our history, that MLS could be a league of choice for the best American players. Landon is to the MLS what Michael Jordan was to the NBA, Wayne Gretzky was to the NHL and Tiger Woods was to the PGA Tour; a player [whose] sporting accomplishments and popularity transformed their respective leagues and set a new standard for how the game would be played.
While Landon is arguably the greatest player our country has ever produced, it is his character and his commitment to growing the game in the United States that truly makes him so special. We plan to celebrate his career during the second half of the MLS season, and we look forward to working alongside Landon as he continues to work in the sport he loves.
In other words, get ready for a mini Derek Jeter retirement tour in the next couple of months.
The whole statement is saying a lot by Garber but it really is tough to overstate what Donovan meant to the league and soccer in the States. The game has only continued to grow in interest and that undoubtedly includes the MLS, which is enjoying better ratings than ever and more visibility.
Donovan will leave with a lot of accolades from his MLS career and atop many of the records on the books but that's just a small part of the legacy he will leave behind in retirement.