Beckham To Leave Galaxy After MLS Cup, With His Future Plans Uncertain
MLS Galaxy MF David Beckham yesterday announced that the MLS Cup on Dec. 1 "will be his final game" with the team, according to Arash Markazi of ESPN L.A. Beckham "did not announce his future plans." His most recent contract included a "clause allowing him to become part of an expansion team ownership group, which he still plans on taking advantage of after his playing career." Beckham said in a release, "I've had an incredibly special time playing for the LA Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career. I don't see this as the end of my relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke, whose company owns the Galaxy, said, "Seldom does an athlete redefine a sport and David not only took our franchise to another level but he took our sport to another level." Since Beckham signed with the Galaxy in January '07, "seven expansion teams -- Montreal, Portland, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Jose and Toronto -- have debuted" in MLS while 15 of the league's 19 teams "now play in soccer specific stadiums," up from five in '07 (ESPNLA.com, 11/19).
END OF AN ERA: MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "There is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when he arrived" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/19). The PA writes Beckham's decision is "no great surprise." China, the UAE, Paris, England and even Brazil "have been mentioned as potential destinations but wherever he goes, it will bring to an end an eventful career in MLS which saw the midfielder become the face of a new era for the sport in North America" (PA, 11/20). SPORTING NEWS' Brian Straus wrote although Beckham's "MLS sojourn featured its share of controversy ... his six-year stay will be remembered as a massive success." He "catapulted MLS to unprecedented visibility in the U.S. and around the world" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/19). FOXSPORTS.com's Leander Schaerlaeckens writes, "Off the field, his signing was an unbridled success." Ultimately, Beckham "came good on the promise; lived up to all the hoopla and hype" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/20). In L.A., Phil Collin writes Beckham's "Hollywood glitter lifestyle helped nudge" the Galaxy and MLS into "the public's consciousness" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/20).
WHAT'S NEXT? In L.A., Nick Green notes, "Noticeably absent from the late afternoon announcement was any use of the 'R' word ... but Beckham left little doubt his days of bending the ball are over" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/20). The GUARDIAN's Marcus Christenson notes there have been "suggestions in the Australian press that Beckham may join the A-league -- with five clubs interested" (GUARDIAN, 11/20). In N.Y., Andrew Das wrote it is "unclear if Beckham's departure from the Galaxy signals the end of his time as a player" (NYTIMES.com, 11/19). In London, Luke Edwards gives the odds of where Beckham might end up and writes under the header, "Where Next For The Former England Captain?" (London TELEGRAPH, 11/20).
MARKETING MACHINE: SI.com's Grant Wahl wrote, "In many ways, Beckham's most important moment Stateside came in January 2007 when he surprised the world by deciding to sign with the Galaxy." More than 300,000 Beckham Galaxy jerseys "were sold in 2007 alone, and when he was healthy enough to play, Beckham moved the needle on both TV ratings and attendance figures." Having Beckham associated with MLS in the long term "can only be a good thing, and the main question is which city he would be associated with." It is also "true that Beckham's tenure in L.A. is one of the most important chapters in the league's history." He "may not have met the outlandish initial projections that were lavished upon his arrival, but he did his part, and he stayed longer than anyone would have expected" (SI.com, 11/19).
TIME TO STEP UP: ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle wrote MLS is now "facing one of its biggest challenges, namely to prove once and for all that there is more to it than merely serving as a marketing arm of Brand Beckham." The "evidence of the league's accomplishments is clear." The "evolution of the fan base that is inclusive of supporters' culture, the numerous soccer-centric stadiums that either have been or are in the process of being built and the continued push for expansion are signs of a vibrant, healthy league." But MLS needs to "do more to highlight these more tangible -- and admittedly less sexy -- signs of progress." Otherwise, the sponsors who "signed on when Beckham arrived won't feel compelled to stick around, and the naysayers who deride the league as nothing more than a retirement home for aging European stars, will be supplied with more ammunition." Now it is "time for MLS to prove that it can stand on its own" (ESPN.com, 11/19).