International Stars the Key for MLS

Jermain Defoe salutes fans at his final match for Tottenham Hotspur. (Getty Images)

The commissioner of Major League Soccer says the future of the league could depend on the involvement of international stars like David Beckham and Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe.

Just days before the league season gets under way, Don Garber believes the league needs to keep top American talent while also signing big-name global stars.

The league has a goal of becoming a global power, and that “includes getting big time international players like [Beckham] and Thierry Henry and now Jermain Defoe.”

Garber also supports the involvement of celebrities Drake, Eva Longoria, and LeBron James, all of whom have shown some level of support for the league.

“There’s an incredible integration between sports and entertainment,” said Garber. “It just adds a little bit to our credibility and ties into that millennial sports fan idea of what’s hip and what’s hot.”

FIFA Approves U-20 Host

FIFA has given the go-ahead to Whangarei to prepare to host matches in next year’s U-20 World Cup.

Whangarei is one of seven New Zealand cities which will host matches as part of the 2015 tournament. FIFA inspectors visited Whangarei’s stadium and training facilities on Wednesday and said they were in great shape.

“Whangarei has such a passion and enthusiasm for this tournament, so we’re delighted to be working with the city to bring the biggest game in the world to town in 2015,” said tournament CEO Dave Beeche in a FIFA release.

Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai said the city’s people are “very excited about the event, and that excitement is spreading into the wider community.”

FIFA’s inspection tour will cover all of the host cities, concluding with a press conference in Auckland on March 14.

Kosovo Set for International Debut

Kosovo’s national team runs through a training session on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Kosovo makes its international football debut with a match against Haiti.

The match marks the end of a long struggle for the right to play international matches. Kosovo declared its independence six years ago and has now been recognized by more than 100 countries, though that figure does not include Serbia or Russia.

The country remains outside of FIFA and UEFA as well. However, FIFA ruled the country’s national team may play friendlies as long as no national symbols, like flags, are displayed or anthems played.

A number of international stars have ties to Kosovo, including Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United and Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich.

“Kosovo will always keep its doors open for them,” national team coach Albert Bunjaki told Reuters on Monday.

“This is a journey, and we expect others to join us in the future.”

By INSIDER’s Nick Devlin

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