MLS Commissioner Credits Beckham For Impact On League, Says He Helped Grow Game In U.S.
Major League Soccer L.A. Galaxy's David Beckham "may be on his way out," but Commissioner Don Garber was clear during Monday's state of the league conference call that the league is "in a far different place than it was back when the English icon signed nearly six years ago," according to Brian Straus of SPORTING NEWS. Garber said, "We needed David Beckham in 2007 to help drive our credibility. We don't need anything today." Garber continued, "I believe we had 12 teams in the league. We had not yet had the television relationships that we have today. We had probably half the number of soccer(-specific) stadiums and the league was just more immature." Garber noted there was "still a lot of work to do to figure out" how Beckham's ownership option "gets exercised." Garber confirmed that Beckham "will not be able to purchase an interest in the expansion club planned" for N.Y. Garber: "There is a possibility for him to work with the league office to find ways to transfer that option into an opportunity in LA." Garber also noted that the "34-game regular season and playoff format (including an MLS Cup final at the site of the participant with the better record) will remain in place next year." The one change will be "an earlier start." After kicking off on March 10 this season, MLS "will open its 18th season on March 2, its earliest launch ever." Garber "promised that MLS 'will continue to invest massive amounts of money' in player development and acknowledged Monday that the league’s investment to this point, which has reached $20M per year, 'has not yet paid off'" (SPORTINGNEWS, 11/26).
MARKETING MACHINE: Garber said that Beckham "did everything" MLS asked of him to "grow football" in the U.S. The AP's Ronald Blum noted Beckham "left Real Madrid in '07 to sign a $32.5M, five-year deal with the Galaxy," he said then that he "wanted to win and increase the league’s popularity both domestically and abroad." Garber said, "I don’t think anybody would doubt that he has overdelivered on every one of those measures. There’s arguably not a soccer fan on this planet that doesn’t know the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and David played a significant role in helping us make that happen" (AP, 11/27). In L.A., Phil Collin wrote of Beckham, "As polarizing as a world icon can sometimes be, even critics won't be able to deny that soccer in America has been boosted beyond what many thought was attainable." But the "most interesting aspect of Beckham's overall legacy ... won't be able to be measured for years." Galaxy VP Chris Klein said, "If you look at David and his time here, his influence has spanned everything that our league touches, from commercially what our league looks like, to ticket sales, to soccer-specific stadiums, to designated players being more interested in our league" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/27). In Miami, Michelle Kaufman wrote Beckham "leaves the league stronger than he found it, and he no doubt made a significant contribution to that growth." His "int'l name recognition and sex appeal, and his genuine commitment to raise the profile of American soccer, left an indelible mark." He did "make a difference. A big difference. A difference that surely was worth the $32.5M investment." Kaufman: "Yes, Becks was worth every penny" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/25).