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MLS ’13: Will The Beckham Departure Hurt MLS?

In 2007, David Beckham was tasked with putting Major League Soccer on the map of the world’s game, and though he may have regretted making that move at times, he succeeded.

Beckham did not, however, do it alone and many soccer fans in Seattle, Toronto, Portland and Vancouver will disagree – at least partially – that MLS has surged solely because of the Englishman. Since the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player joined the LA Galaxy, MLS has seen an exceptional amount of growth. In 2006, the year before Golden Balls signed his lucrative deal, the league consisted of a mere 12 teams. That was still only two more than the league possessed in its debut year of 1996.Since then, seven teams have joined MLS and soccer as we know it has spread across North America; at least in the cities that house league teams.

mlsseasprev2013take3 150x133 MLS 13: Will The Beckham Departure Hurt MLS?

MLS ’13

Beckham’s departure came at the right time for both player and league. MLS is not and most likely will not be one of the premier soccer leagues in the world. But as long as the league’s brain-trust understands what its product is, the league can thrive. And rather than trying to be the best league in the world, Don Garber and company should focus on being the best league in North America first. Most soccer fans, pundits and players still rate Mexico’s Liga MX as the top league on the continent and once MLS bests its Southern neighbor, then it can look towards topping Europe.

But what has MLS truly lost with Beckham’s departure? On the field, the LA Galaxy has lost an aging midfielder, while off it, the team and league have lost a marquee name that still brought people into the stadium. Whether fans of soccer or not, people wanted to see Beckham play and more times than not, to root against the Galaxy. Of course, there will be a fall-off from the causal fans and unfortunately MLS seems to be a league dominated by the casual fan, which could see attendances drop in some markets in 2013. Casual fan or not, the Galaxy became a team despised around the league and the team’s fixtures – home or away – were big sellers. That interest will hopefully be there in 2013, and fans will find another player to loath.

Yet the good news is, compared to pre-Beckham MLS, the league is in a much stronger all-around place. Financially, MLS has never been better and part of that comes from the revenue generated by 12 soccer specific stadiums. Something the MLS of 1996 could only dream of. There’s also the improved quality of play in the league and the draw of higher quality foreign talent. The league now has former UEFA Champions League winners and World Cup winners scattered about the league, and with continued growth more could arrive in the coming years.

The league has lost that name or brand: Brand Beckham. It is a name that, other than Lionel Messi, is one that cannot be topped not only in soccer, but in all of sports right now. But the memory will resonate for some time. The next moves the league make will be crucial in sustaining that momentum that occurred during the midfielders six-years with the Galaxy.

MLS is about to go through both a scary and exciting time. Its marquee foreign name is gone, but everything is in place for MLS to continue its rise.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew is a senior writer for Forza Italian Football where he covers Genoa and he hosts the website’s Club Focus Podcast. 

8 Responses to MLS ’13: Will The Beckham Departure Hurt MLS?

  1. Charles says:

    This article is a joke in my opinion.

    One, we disagree on MLS not becoming a top league. You, like other casual fans, focus on the top teams of the leagues only and then imply MLS has a long way to go. I completely disagree. The median team is barely behind the top teams in MLS and the top teams, while behind Mexican teams can play with them, beat them even, in very exciting games.

    Second, then you have the balls to call fans of the league casual. The guy who thinks the top draft picks haven’t done well ? Are you kidding me ?

    Third, then you state the league is doing OK talent wise because it has ex-Euro playoff champions in it….yeah again curse those casual fans who stupidly think Zakuani, Maddox and many, many, many others coming up through college were the reason for improved play.

    Fourth. You state the next moves MLS makes will be critical. I can only assume you mean getting another Beckham type…again curse those casual fans. My friends are going to the games to see Mario Martinez, when the real fans like you care about Robbie Keane’s joining the league.

  2. Alex says:

    No i dont think Beckhams departure will hurt MLS. I think MLS has matured to the point where fans care more about their clubs signing the right players to win games instead of signing one marquee player to represent the league. when beckham first came fans flocked to see beckham the brand, not Galaxy. the last 2 years fans went to see Beckham the player but not just him, the rest of Galaxy play because they were a winning team (well at least during the 2011 regular season). its not gonna be tomorrow but i believe that MLS should focus on decentralizing its role in buying players for its clubs by letting clubs the freedom to compete in the market for players. I mean Sounders couldnt have the option to negotiate with Saviola because they simply weren’t next in line for the allocation process. what is that? i would love to see Saviola play and say i was a Sounders fan i would be outraged that Sounders wont be able to sign Saviola simply because Sounders aren’t next in line. its those kinds of things that mls should focus on adjusting if they want 10 beckhams playing in mls instead of one beckham playing for mls.

    • Charles says:

      You don’t know what you are talking about, Allocation order is for US Nat team members. The Sounders ARE negotiating or were anyway, and there are still rumors out there that he is coming to Seattle.

      • Alex says:

        last time i checked the news Sounders said that there is a list and clubs are allowed to negotiate with the players mls brings in in order of that list. and although Sounders wants to talk with saviola they said that some other club is ahead of them.

        • Charles says:

          No. Allocaton order has nothing to do with them negotiating with Saviola.

          If some other MLS team were already doing so, maybe, but I don’t believe that is the case.

  3. Alex says:

    good article btw Drew. well written.

  4. Pio says:

    Mls is growing, we have potentially 2 more teams that will be added very soon. Beckham probably left at the right time, Mls continues to develop talent, though am not sure if they can compete with the Mexican league yet, they have at the very least shorten the gap.

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