Not since the days of the NASL has a signing of a foreign player provided so much promise for the growth of soccer in America. Given the state of Soccer in America today, as compared to the days of the NASL, the signing of David Beckham has the potential to create permanent, lasting affects that benefit the game here in the U.S.When the NASL was in its heyday, many of the clubs were popular in their local market, but Soccer as a concept or an international game was unknown in this country. Not only was the US National Team not competitive, but little awareness existed of the historic nature of the clubs teams that populate the European and South American continents.
The NASL ushered in a growth era for American Soccer which has resulted in consistent World Cup appearances for the USA, live television for European Leagues and the most popular youth sport in the country. The one thing missing however, is consistent support and interest in a domestic league. When MLS began play in 1996 this was supposed to change, but ultimately the fanfare of the first few years wore off as more and more soccer fans began to see the product offered by the league as an inferior one.
While David Beckham is a one dimensional player, and will not make the impact on the overall quality of play in MLS as someone like, let’s say a Deco or Riquelme, he is the most marketable athlete in the world save Tiger Woods. The marketing power of someone as recognizable as Beckham is immense for a game that gets little respect from the mainstream media in this nation, and will force those snobs who consider soccer a “foreign” sport to pay some attention.
David Beckham’s international career with England is over. Now he moves on to a missionary task where he alone can provide the last link between the US market and international soccer scene. Beckham will fulfill his end of the bargain, but MLS must capitalize on the gains made by this splashy move and use it to solidify its place on both the American sports landscape and in International soccer scene.