SBD/November 29, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS Seeking New Int'l Ambassador With Beckham's Exit; Henry Or Keane Next In Line?

Keane wants to dispel the notion that MLS is a retirement league for European players
MLS is "hunting for a new international face to promote abroad," as Galaxy MF David Beckham, "who has been the international face of the league" since joining the team in '07, will retire from the league after Saturday's MLS Cup, according to Frederick Dreier in a special for USA TODAY. Galaxy MF Landon Donovan also has "hinted that his MLS career could be winding down." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that Red Bulls F Thierry Henry likely "would be the league's international face" after Beckham's departure. But others in MLS "have pointed to" Galaxy F Robbie Keane. Critics of the league's "international ambitions say MLS has become a retirement home for Europe's aging stars who are more interested in marketing their brands than winning titles." Keane said that he was "trying to shoot down that opinion." Dreier notes Beckham and Henry joined MLS in their 30s "after long and lucrative careers in Europe," and both have "stepped into sizable marketing deals in the USA." Keane said that he "consulted Beckham before joining MLS and that his decision took two days to make, even though he'd never been to Los Angeles." Keane added that "extending his personal brand" in the U.S. "was not a factor in his decision." Since joining the Galaxy in August '11, Keane has "seen his celebrity stay largely within the soccer community." But he said that he would "welcome a chance to step into a promotional role for the league, specifically if it means bringing more Europeans into MLS" (USA TODAY, 11/29). In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes, "For MLS, Beckham's departure figures to end one of the most dramatic growth spurts of any league in U.S. professional sports history, one that saw it go from 12 to 19 teams, add 10 new soccer-specific stadiums, more than double its overall attendance and increase worldwide merchandise sales by more than 230%" (L.A. TIMES, 11/29).

EYEING ENGLAND? In London, Simon Rice reports Beckham has "revealed he has a number of offers on the table as he prepares to take the final step in his playing career." Regarding a return to the EPL, Beckham said that it "is unlikely." However, he "refused to rule it out." Beckham: "I've always said I think I would struggle to come back and play in England because I've played for the biggest club in the world, the biggest club in England, Manchester United, and I couldn't see myself playing for any other Premiership team. But you never know. Like I said, we've got some exciting options on the table." Speaking specifically about reported interest from EPL club Queens Park Rangers and French club Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham said that he was "flattered by the praise shown by their respective managers" (London INDEPENDENT, 11/29). 
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