A man on a mission
Approxamitley 1 year ago, David Beckham left one of the greatest clubs in the world in Real Madrid to come to MLS and play for the Los Angeles Galaxy. In Europe, everybody was wondering, "What the hell is he doing?"
The man was 32 and was playing his best football (yeah, I'm gonna say football), in quite a while, helping Real Madrid to the Spanish league (La Liga) title. He was also starring for the English national team in their bid to qualify for Euro 2008, which would ultimatley fail.
Countless voices in Europe, including German legend Franz Beckenbauer and Brazilian maestro Pele thought heading to the MLS would ruin his career as he would play against inferior competition and his skills would deteriorate, not to mention English national team coach Steve McClaren would rarely see him in action to keep tabs on his form.
But Beck's saw something different, something beyond his personal desires of glory. He knew he could help bring notice to the game of soccer in America and give MLS some exposure, something it surely needed. David was spot on.
The man who brought $600 million in merchandising sales to Real Madrid in four years was all over the news once word broke out he had signed a contract with the Galaxy. European news and the BBC were astonished that he would be leaving Europe for America at his age and the form he was in. American soccer seemed to be at the center of the world.
"I'm coming there not to be a superstar. I'm coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and to hopefully win things. With me, it's about football. I'm coming there to make a difference. I'm coming there to play football... I'm not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. That would be difficult to achieve. Baseball, basketball, American football, they've been around. But I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could make a difference." said Beckham.
Becks signs autographs
World news and ESPN in America were stunned at his projected 5 year, $250 million contract, which was eventually toned down due to the fact it included endorsements and other bonuses other than his salary. When this news broke out, it seemed as if the entire country knew who David Beckham was and what Major League Soccer was, he immediatley brought exposure to the sport. Before he even arrived in the US, 250,000 jerseys had been sold.
Let's fast forward one year.
Beckham has made 19 appearances to the Galaxy, selling out every stadium he goes to. He has scored only 5 goals, many on his trademark freekicks, but we must remember he isn't a goalscorer, rather a playmaker who gets tons of assists with his accurate passing and crossing.
His teammate on the Galaxy, Landon Donovan, is leading the league in scoring partially due to Becks. His jersey is being sold across the land in every soccer shop and even stores such as Dick's sporting goods. MLS jersey sales are up 780% and MLS internet traffic is up 80%! He's also been on countless commercials on the television.
The Galaxy were even in first place in the Westen Confrence of MLS. Every teenage girl in America surely knows what the LA Galaxy is.
A sold out stadium waits for Becks
So has he succeeded with his goal? I say yes. Not only has he brought exposure to the sport to where everyone knows what it is, he has also brought an incredible amount of revenue to MLS and is helping soccer take over the NHL as the fourth most popular sport in the nation. (Believe it!)
And all those european soccer fans and those who immigrated from around the world finally have something decent to watch regarding the world's most popular sport.
Of course having a spice girl wife, being friends with Beyonce, Tom Cruise, and J-Lo and being so darn good looking helps the exposure of soccer as well.
Every time a big European club comes to America, the stadiums were sold out, but MLS games were half empty. Now Beckham is changing MLS where it can actually compete somewhat with the big European clubs in attendance.
THE DAVID BECKHAM EFFECT
You must remember David Beckham is one man, he cannot be the savior of American soccer by himself. Back in the 70's when Pele was here, he had a similar effect selling out stadiums. Unfortunatley, his success couldn't be sustained as eventually he would leave American soccer and those he came after him weren't nearly as big of a star as he was, and Americans didn't want to watch soccer on TV. That has changed somewhat.
What Beckham has done is paved the way for other big stars to come to MLS to expose the game even more until the point where MLS can be self sustaining and can be successful by creating homegrown American stars and having a top league that can attract stars from around the world that can compete with the European leagues.
Farfetched? Maybe. But there is potential. Soccer is the #1 sport played by youths in the country, and we're growing stars like Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore who play in Europe to get better and improve our national team so we can make a good run in the World Cup and increase exposure even more.
Ronaldinho to MLS?
Big name stars such as Ronaldo, Zidane, Luis Figo, Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho, Andriy Shevchenko, and others have expressed interest in playing in MLS one day. We already have well known players in other parts of the world such as Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Juan Pablo Angel, Darren Huckerby, and Barros Schelotto playingin MLS. Never heard of them? People from other countries have and they turn up in droves to watch their heroes in MLS.
So there is hope for American soccer, it just needs a little optimism and support by the people. (Jim Rome should be FIRED!) Don't hate soccer just yet, grow up and you could be part of something really special.