David Beckham's Retirement: Could Miami MLS Team Be In Play?
David Beckham Thursday announced his plans to retire at the conclusion of his current season with French club Paris Saint-Germain on May 26, and though he would "like to own a team ... there are no immediate plans for him to bring" an MLS club to Miami, according to Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. When Beckham signed with the MLS Galaxy six years ago, his contract "included an option to buy an MLS franchise for a discounted price." Beckham has said that he "planned to exercise that option 'immediately' upon finishing his playing days." Kaufman notes there have been reports Beckham would "buy the Galaxy and move back to California, where his family was very happy." But there also have been "whispers he would be interested in bringing a team to Miami." It is "no secret MLS would like a team in the Southeastern United States." However, MLS execs have given "no indications of any plans for a Beckham-backed team in Miami and say any talk of a Miami team is speculation." Their "current expansion blueprint centers" on N.Y. and Orlando (MIAMI HERALD, 5/17).
BECKHAM BENT IT: The AP's Nancy Armour wrote by making the "growth of soccer in the United States his pet project," Beckham put the sport "on a fast track" domestically. He gave it the "kind of legitimacy and visibility it would have taken decades to reach on its own." Beckham also "elevated the league's stature with international players" (AP, 5/16). In N.Y., Longman & Borden in a front-page piece note Beckham’s role in "raising global awareness of soccer in the United States is undeniable." During Beckham’s "first year with the Galaxy, the club’s revenue rose as much" as 40%. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said, “I don’t think it’s unfair to say he put MLS on the map." Beckham’s career also "proved hugely influential in the swelling interest of European soccer in Asia and elsewhere around the globe" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/17). In Toronto, Karissa Donkin notes Toronto FC President & GM Kevin Payne "remembers that first rainy night when Beckham came" to DC while Payne was still with DC United. The club "sold an extra 27,000 seats at RFK Stadium for that game." Payne: “When he pulled off the warm-up shirt, the flash bulbs going off in the stadium were unbelievable. It was like being at the opening kick of a World Cup final, where all you see is flashbulbs everywhere. ... A lot of people that weren't very aware of our league became aware" (TORONTO STAR, 5/17). Retired Manchester United D Gary Neville, a former teammate of Beckham, said, "When you think back on the way football has changed over the last 22 years, he has probably been the most influential player in that time in terms of transforming football" (ESPNFC.com, 5/16). English FA Chair David Bernstein said that he "hoped Beckham would consider becoming England's equivalent of Michel Platini or Franz Beckenbauer, iconic players who went on to play key roles in global sports administration" (GUARDIAN, 5/17).
ABLE TO MOVE THE NEEDLE: SI's Grant Wahl said Beckham brought "new fans to the sport, got really good crowds on the road, moved the needle a little bit on television ratings." But he added it was a "very big challenge that might have been bigger than what Beckham was expecting coming in to convert Americans more to soccer." ESPN's Alexi Lalas said the expectation for Beckham when he signed with the Galaxy was to make the team's "brand relevant, not domestically (but) internationally and he did that and more and he brought credibility." Lalas: "When people think about Major League Soccer now, people around the world, first thing they think of is the Los Angeles Galaxy and it's because of the power of that brand" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/16).