Beckham in MLS won’t permanently boost North American soccer

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

David Beckham

BENDING IT LIKE... ME? It’s too bad the caption-writing abilities of Gazette editors don’t compare to the footballing skills of midfielder David Beckham, whose transfer to MLS might not boost U.S. soccer.

Major League Soccer has worked hard in recent years to popularize soccer in North America, and the Los Angeles Galaxy hope to do it by signing English star David Beckham. In reality, that won’t be the case.

Fans have been calling Toronto Football Club asking about Beckham tickets, a clear indication he’ll sell soccer in the short term, but in the long run things will stay the same.

Just look at the last star to play American soccer: Pélé.

During his tenure with the New York Cosmos from 1975 1978, the great Brazilian footballer moved more tickets than a disgruntled parking officer " Pélé was a god in New York.

Though past his prime, he singlehandedly made Manhattan soccer crazy.

Thirty years later, though, few remember Pélé for playing in New York. Except for every four years when the World Cup rolls around, Americans rarely follow soccer closely.

Expect Beckham’s time in Los Angeles to have a similar effect. Like Pélé, Beckham is an aging star coming to a major North American market, and he will sell tickets.

Soccer will be fashionable and entertaining in Los Angeles, and fans around the continent will flock to their respective teams’ stadiums when the Galaxy visit.

But 15 years from now, Beckham will be remembered as a phenom at Manchester United, a disappointment at Real Madrid and a captain with England. His time with the Galaxy won’t be the defining moment of his career or of North American soccer.

North Americans might follow “the beautiful game” in the meantime to see one of the better players of our generation in action, but they won’t trade their Raiders jerseys for Galaxy merchandise once Beckham retires.

Expect him to sell tickets when he plays, but to have little impact on the game’s popularity in the long term. Pélé couldn’t do it and neither can Beckham.

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