EDIT: 11:18 AM – It’s officially official. Apparently MLS just issued press release confirming Beckham to MLS.
Don’t look now, but MLS is about to be invaded by the one and only David Beckham.
Rumors have been surfacing for a few weeks now on soccer blogs and message boards. Becks is out of favor with his current club, Real Madrid, and the rumor mill had him looking at clubs in England, Italy, and…the United States.
Copious new sources are now reporting this as a done deal (ESPN, Good Morning America, BBC, blogs) with Beckham expected to officially be announced as a member of the LA Galaxy as early as tomorrow. There’s intense arguments on both sides about whether or not this is a good move for MLS. Whatever your opinion, one thing’s for certain – this is HUGE news.
The obvious cons to Beckham’s signing – he’s 31 years old, past his prime, will cost a fortune (somewhere close to $35MM is the estimate) and this seemingly doesn’t jive with MLS’s modus operandi up to this point. The biggest naysayers point to the dysfunctional NASL, which was a supernova league and then crashed and burned in incredibly swift fashion. Will MLS simply turn into a wasteland of overpaid, past-their-prime former mega-stars? That’s the worry.
But count me in as a supporter of the move. Beckham’s not the Beckham of 1998-99, but he will come in as one of the top 3 players in MLS. Period. He’s not 35, he’s 31. He’s expensive, but you can bet that there will be an absolute boatload of LA Galaxy jerseys sold now that never would have been before. He’s one of the 5 most recognizeable athletes on the planet, right up there with Tiger, Jordan, LeBron. MLS instantaneously becomes relevant to people all over the globe. He will drive attendance, if for no other reason than because he’s incredibly famous. I don’t think MLS will abandon their model. The league has made great strides in the last 10 years, but the fact of the matter is that something will have to happen – some tipping point – before MLS has any chance of competing with hockey, NASCAR, etc as one of the “fringe major” sports in the US.
I’m trying to come up with some sort of analogy and everytime I think of one, it breaks down. The reason – Beckham is so much more than a soccer player. He’s undoubtedly an icon. And in today’s crowded pro sports environment, icons are everything. Beckham is a brand unto himself, and MLS has to feel good about associating itself with one of the most famous brands in sports.
The coolest part of this for me – I know a number of players in MLS from my year on the UNC team. Guys like Logan Pause, Matt Crawford, Chris Leitch, David Stokes, and Eddie Robinson. These guys are going to play on the same pitch as one of the most famous athletes of our generation. That is awesome.
Can’t wait to see the media storm that arises because of this. Beware – even if Beckham comes in and plays amazing, it won’t be enough for a lot of people. But in the long run, I think this is an awesome investment for MLS.