Over the weekend, ESPN broke the story that LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham will reassess his future with the club in December.
According to the story, both player and club have the option to part-company at the end of the 2012 season. This story comes on the heels of Victoria Beckham’s foray into the fashion industry; which has led many to believe Golden Balls could leave the bright lights of LA for New York City and the Red Bulls.
Just as interesting, Beckham was apparently close to a deal away from Major League Soccer last January. A deal that would have taken the former England captain to Brazil and Botafogo. In the end Beckham re-signed with the Galaxy. However, at 37, Beckham maybe ready for one last move before calling it a career.
Whether that move is to New York or to another country, Beckham’s days in Southern California could be numbered.
There is no doubt Beckham has helped MLS, not only become a more attractive league to fans and players alike, but the quality of play has improved every year since 2007. Thanks in part to the league’s appeal being raised to quality foreign talent, and the improvement of North American players.
The Galaxy has seen their fortunes take off as well since Beckham’s arrival. Though the team didn’t make the playoffs for either of the midfielders’ first two seasons, LA has been the face of the league in recent years. Beckham helped the club to two straight Supporters’ Shield trophies in 2010 and 2011, and two MLS Cup Finals in three years. The club is likely to once again feature in the final this year and could tie DC United with most MLS Cup wins (four).
In the fast past world of soccer, where matches take place nearly all year around the world, it’s easy to forget what MLS was like pre-Golden Balls. And with a plethora of new fans – casual, hardcore and everywhere in between – that may not have a clue about MLS pre-2007. This was a man whom the league enacted a rule – designated player – to enable them bring him into the competition. Beckham’s time in MLS has been felt by everyone from fans to players.
The league’s profile was raised considerably thanks to Beckham’s signature and like Pele’s arrival in New York in 1975; many north of US-Mexican border sat up and took notice of a “European” game. In 2006, MLS had a salary cap of a mere $1.9 million, and though it stands at $2.8 million this season, Beckham’s time in the league can be tied to increased wages for players.
Of course, Grant Wahl’s “The Beckham Experiment” chronicles the chaos that surrounded the Galaxy during that time. But without Beckham and the chaos, it could be argued MLS wouldn’t be the same league it is in 2012. Despite what critics of both LA and Beckham say, MLS needed David Beckham and perhaps it still does.
If the rumors are true and Beckham trades sunny LA for New York City, he may be the player that finally turns around the Red Bulls franchise. A continually underachieving club with money to spare may finally get that elusive first MLS trophy.
However, Beckham’s legacy in MLS could just as easily be tainted. The chaos that continues to be Red Bull New York may in fact be worse than the LA chaos overseen by Lalas in 2007 and 2008.
Regardless, Beckham has turned this league into one that matters to the people who count: North Americans.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @CalcioFarmer and read Drew’s work at MLSTalk and Forzaitalianfootball.com, where he covers Italy’s Genoa CFC. Drew also hosts the Forzaitalianfootball.com weekly Club Focus podcastand writes his own personal football and travel blog at Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey.