When MLS Commissioner Don Garber summoned team owners to a meeting in the winter of 2001, he brought a group of bankruptcy attorneys with him.
The league had lost $250 million since its first game six years earlier, had seen attendance fall nearly 20% and appeared to be days away from folding.
“It was grim,” one league executive said.
So Garber offered a plan to save the league, one that, among other things, called on a handful of owners to bankroll multiple teams. Three of them agreed, with Phil Anschutz and the Kraft and Hunt families eventually combining to manage 11 franchises.
Fourteen years later, the league has not just survived, it has...