Major League Soccer [MLS] is set to attract more big names from the world of soccer after former LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham exercised his option to buy a Major League Soccer franchise in Miami.
Beckham, who announced plans for the venture last year, was in the city yesterday and later on Wednesday – along with his investment group and MLS commissioner Don Garber – drumming up support from community leaders and youth soccer clubs in the area. Beckham is already in the US, having watched the Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday afternoon, in which Seattle Seahawks defeated Denver Broncos 43 to 8.
MLS is building on the short-lived success of the North American Soccer League [NASL] of the 1970s, when the lure of the American dollar was enugh to attract big names, such as Pele, George Best, Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer went to the US in the twilight of their careers to raise the profile of the game and earn money they could not make elsewhere. However, despite big crowds and a lot of initial media attention, the game never really caught on in the US. David Beckham will look to remedy this.
Beckham raised eyebrows when he quit European soccer to join the Galaxy in 2003, with many believing he was giving up the game, in terms of serious competition, at the peak of his career for a big pay day in the US. His then club manager, Italian Fabio Capello, even dropped the player in retaliation claiming the Englishman would not be committed to playing for the first incarnation of Los Galácticos – a dream team consisting of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Beckham – in their remaining games that season. The side was named as such not only because of the calibre of the players on show, but their respective transfer fees. Beckham joined Real from United in 2003 for £25 million.
Indeed, Beckham’s global appeal has surprised many from his home nation. Former Liverpool captain and Scotland international turned pundit, Alan Hansen, once claimed Beckham would fail to register in the top 100 names to ever have played the game. Indeed, Beckham never had the technical ability synonymous with the likes of Paul Gascoigne or Matthew Le Tissier, but he was an impact player who managed to build a massive profile against the odds. West Ham fans burned effigies of the player after his red card against Argentina in the 1998 France World Cup. After that, he faces allegations of infidelity with his personal assistant Rebecca Loos. Nevertheless, by using his celebrity status and ability to sell shirts, he not only managed to play for the likes of United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, he helped re-ignite interest in the game in the US – a country where the sport has failed to match the status of football, basketball and baseball.
The MLS continues to attract big names from the world stage, such as former France, Arsenal and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry who plays for New York Red Bulls. As such, David Beckham will be hoping to use his presence to attract a number of big names from the big leagues when his Miami club launches in 2016.
By Robert Shepherd