In case you missed it Thursday, British soccer star David Beckham has agreed to come to America this summer to play for Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy. He has reportedly signed a five-year deal worth $250 million dollars in salary and endorsements, which is about twice as much as the current highest paid team athlete, the Yankees Alex Rodriguez is paid. And it won’t make a lick of difference as far as the popularity of American soccer.
Oh, sure, the Galaxy will sell out probably all of its games as big-time soccer fans and other curiosity-seekers want to get a look at the man who was regarded as the best soccer player in the world. What they’ll likely get will be a past-his-prime star who will look decent compared to the relatively low-level talent in MLS. To sign with the Galaxy, Beckham is passing on a two-year contract extension with his current club Real Madrid in Spain. Why? Probably because he rides the pine over there and frankly the bloom has long since fallen off the rose for Becks. In the 3.5 years since he left England’s Manchester United, where he earned his superstar status, Mr. Posh Spice (he’s married to the former Spice Girl Victoria Adams) has been a pretty big disappointed. And fans in England pretty much gave up on him after a disappointing World Cup last summer.
Basically, the move is a quarter-billion dollar publicity stunt for the little-respected MLS. While it will likely have short-term benefits and create a media blitz this summer, it’s unlikely Beckham, who will turn 32 before he plays his first game in the US, will really turn the general tide of disinterest America’s sports appetite has for soccer. After all, if Pele, who was undoubtedly the greatest “footballer” of all time, couldn’t do it a generation ago, what makes you think an out-dated Beckham will really win fans from the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball or even the sagging NHL? Even though millions of Americans play soccer, relatively few watch it as a spectator sport. Let’s face it: America has seen soccer and collectively yawned. An over-hyped Brit probably isn’t going to make most of us change our mind.
It looks like to cash in as quickly as possible, MLS is targeting a different demographic. The announcement of the signing was an “Exclusive” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, and Becks appeared live on the program Friday. In other words, promoters are trying to draw in women who think Beckham is a hunk but who couldn’t care less if he
scores any goals.
Here’s my prediction: After the initial media feeding frenzy about Beckham dies down this fall, MLS will be relegated back to obscurity like a struggling Premiere League team is relegated back to the lower levels of European soccerdom. As time goes on, the swollen Galaxy crowds in LA will begin to dwindle back to normal. I’ll also wager Beckham never plays out his full contract. In fact, bank on him not playing in the US past 2008. Not that most of us will care. Just like the proverbial tree in the woods, if a soccer star in the US falls, will it make a noise?
By: Kevin Wuzzardo