Becks could be the next American idol - England star may just be what the doctor ordered for US soccer
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- Published 13.04.06
They are already willing, it would appear, to bend it for Beckham, so perhaps it was always only a matter of time before the England captain prepared to flaunt his talents in Major League Soccer (MLS).
There is talk of introducing the “Beckham rule” in the US within two years. The idea is that each of the 12 MLS teams will be permitted to sign one luxury player outside of the salary cap that was integral to re-establishing soccer in the US after the crash-and-burn era of the 1970s.
David Beckham’s comments this week that he would consider finishing his playing career in the US will have been music to the ears of Adidas, one of his main sponsors, which signed a $150 million (about ?86 million) 10-year sponsorship deal with the MLS last year.
There would appear to be something symbiotic about Beckham, 31 next month, and the US getting it together and it is not only the Real Madrid player’s love of a “Hollywood pass”.
The searing 70-yard Exocet may invariably fly directly to its target, but there is also the glitz, the glamour, the hairband; the willingness to be associated with cola brands.
Then, more practically, Beckham has one of his soccer academies in Los Angeles.
“At some stage, playing in America is possible,” Beckham said.
“I’ve one year left at Real Madrid and maybe two more after that, but things can change in football and the American league does interest me. I’ve got my soccer academy in LA, which is important to me because that is my life after the game. I want to be part of a country that is passionate about sport.”
If Beckham sounds ready for the US, is the US ready for him?
The average attendance at MLS matches last season was about 18,000 and the standard compares favourably with the Coca-Cola Championship in England.
ABC and ESPN televise games, although soccer remains behind the big four sports ? American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey ? in popularity.
“If Beckham went over there, it would be the first time MLS has taken the star-driven route that characterised the game in the 1970s,” David Tossell, the author of Playing for Uncle Sam, a book about the NASL, said.
A New England-based journalist said: “There was talk of Paul Gascoigne coming here, but I’m sure MLS needs players who have a couple of top years left in them.
Genuine star quality brings in the crowds. Freddy Adu (the teenage DC United star) sometimes adds 5,000 to gates for away games. If Beckham finished his career here, I’m sure the ex-pats would pour out to see him.”
Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, said: “We still have a long way to go, but we’re making progress.”
Signing up Beckham would surely accelerate the trend.