When I first heard that Major League Soccer bought David Beckham, I was in disbelief. A player of his popularity must have a hefty price tag.
MLS is still a small business that does not have much capital to work with. However, the owners of the league and its teams have very deep pockets.
To increase interest in the league, MLS created the Beckham rule. The rule is that each club has the ability to purchase one player over its salary cap with no restrictions. It began when the Los Angeles Galaxy bought Beckham from Real Madrid (think the Yankees of soccer) for five years at $50 million. His contract, however, can be worth up to $250 million dollars because of endorsements.
Additionally, Beckham is actually a good player. Despite what critics say about Beckham being at a career low, he has clearly proven that he can compete at the top level. After he was bought by the Galaxy, he played an integral role in helping Real Madrid win the Spanish title and even regained his spot on the English national team.
He is undoubtedly one of the best passers in the world, and his trademark free kicks even have a movie named after them.
Beckham’s move to MLS is like Derek Jeter moving to the Japanese baseball league, Chad Johnson moving to the Canadian football league or Dwayne Wade moving to the Italian basketball league. All are known as top-notch, but not the best players, and have much star power.
That said, I firmly believe that Beckham will make a huge difference for American soccer.
I had the privilege of attending the first game he started for the L.A. Galaxy. The match was against DC United, one of the top teams in MLS this season.
The Galaxy went into the game as one of the worst, if not the worst, team in MLS. The game began with the sloppy play that the Galaxy has been associated with this season.
Any soccer enthusiast could tell that Beckham had superior talent, for all that his perfectly-placed passes were mishandled by his teammates. However, after 15 minutes the rest of the Galaxy began to feed off Beckham and adjust to his skills.
Then I saw something that I had never seen before. Both sides were playing more and more like European teams. Players were going in for hard tackles and setting up complex passes, and the game was much smoother than usual. For the first time, I could watch an MLS game without feeling frustrated by the inferior play.
It was only fitting that Beckham scored his first MLS goal on a free kick, which he bent into the top left corner masterfully. He also had an assist on the other score of the game.
It is unfortunate that Beckham was reduced to minimal field time because of injury this season. The Galaxy will not make the playoffs, and this season will go down as one of the worst in franchise history in terms of play. In terms of publicity, however, this season was an epic one.
The Beckhams’ celebrity has brought many otherwise indifferent spectators to the sport. Their good friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have become soccer fans, and teenage girls across the nation are getting into the game as well.
NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett and television star Eva Longoria were spotted in the crowd at Beckham’s debut. Kobe Bryant even expressed increased interest in the sport in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel.
Beckham’s skill will improve the play in the MLS and increase the popularity of the sport in many different ways. He is reason enough to pay attention to the MLS.
My mom is one of the least sports-oriented people you’ll ever meet, but the day after I came back from the Galaxy game she asked me about Beckham. Never before has she asked me anything sports related. If David Beckham can get my mom interested in soccer, whether because of his looks or skill, I think that he has already done his job.