AEG President Tim Leiweke tells the LOS ANGEL…

AEG President Tim Leiweke tells the LOS ANGELES TIMES that "change is needed if [soccer] is to thrive in the [U.S.]."

Leiweke thinks that increasing the level of play, with international players, will help add fans: "We are very committed over the next couple of years at trying to the best of our ability to put pressure on the league to upgrade the level of play, and we don’t think that comes just from within American soccer."

Leiweke is also incensed that high-profile international club teams are being allowed to stage exhibitions in the U.S. during the MLS season: "They’ve got to stop it. It’s not fair to this sport. It’s not fair to Phil Anschutz and Lamar Hunt and [Real Salt Lake Owner] Dave Checketts. They’ve put a lot of money into this league now. If Real Madrid or ManU want to come over here and play, they ought to play us."

When asked where the league will reside on the pro sports landscape in ten years, Leiweke said, "This is going to be one of the top three or four sports in this country. I continue to remind [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman — he gets mad at me when I remind him of this — soccer is about to surpass hockey."

All Leiweke has to do for MLS to pass the NHL is to get all his blood relatives to watch MLS games on TV.