Thursday, January 11, 2007

More on Beckham -- Why? Because it's the biggest U.S. soccer story in a long time. I've spent the day chatting with other fans. There is no shortage of excitement over the announcement that Beckham is coming. I didn't report on the rumors earlier, because I did not believe Beckham would come -- I did not think the league would come up with the money to get him, and the fact that he was talking with Real Madrid suggested to me that he was still more interested in finding a team in Europe.

That said, I am as delighted as I am surprised by the news. The timing is propitious for MLS, as tomorrow is the league's "Super-Draft." This usually a non-event as far as the media and fans are concerned, but perhaps there will be some spillover attention to the selection of the league's future young stars. Included in the group is 15 year-old from Minnesota, who is a native of Ethiopia, Abdus Ibrahim.

As for Beckham himself, he has already given the league some quick return. The Galaxy have reported the team has sold 1,000 season tickets today, while even DC United has reported an uptick with 200 season tickets sold today. The media attention globally has been intense. Sky Sports News devoted much of their program to the signing, while every major American media outlet has also run stories on the day's events.

I had a conversation with one Galaxy fan, who shares my disappointment with Landon Donovan, over his performance during the World Cup. Of course, that sentiment is shared by all fans of the national team, I expect. In any case, I think that Beckham's presence in Los Angeles may help Donovan. Beckham has never been criticized for lack of effort or daring, or toughness, or even confidence. If some of that could rub off on Donovan, who has never really challenged himself....perhaps Donovan could become the U.S. team leader we all expected he would be.

Bringing Beckham here does not create respect for MLS, or the delusion that Beckham is still among the world's elite players. But, he is still one of the two most recognizable and famous players. As Steven Goff wrote in the Washington Post, Beckham "is not the best player in the world -- far from it. But he is perhaps the most famous athlete on the planet." WaPo on Beckham. Beckham's coming here will bring attention to the MLS. British papers -- indeed all soccer/football media will report on his play. And the league will get attention -- here and abroad. Something that has been lacking before. Top players wont come here just because Beckham is here, but they will come eventually, because they will be more aware of the league. Respect will come when it is earned.

Update: I was intrigued by Alecko Eskandarian's reaction, as reported in the Post. Said the former United striker, "As much as I'm all for the exposure, I feel like if [MLS clubs] have all this money they could divvy up some of it, especially for some of the younger players with developmental contracts. It's really not fair what they make. To think that one guy could make more in one day of practice than some guys make for a whole year of effort is pretty shocking." Most athletes are expected to say the right thing -- Beckham's future teammate, Cobi Jones, joked about picking up whatever change falls out of Beck's pockets in the locker room. I find it refreshing to hear Esky's candor about the resentment he feels. It will be tricky for the Galaxy to negotiate the problems that Beckham's contract may cause in the locker room.

The Post article suggests that only the Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls are expected to make use of the designated player exception. The article links the Red Bulls to rumors about Ronaldo, Luis Figo (who is reported in other sources to have decided on a Saudi team), and former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna. I might add Zinedine Zidane -- rumors have been around since the last Cup that Djorkaeff was talking to Zidane about comiong to the New York metro area.

I might also question why Reyna is being linked only to the Red Bulls. Reyna has been excused from his Manchester City club because of personal reasons -- and the team has said he may return to the States, but they are not going to release him unless it's in the team's interest. Reyna, who grew up near the Red Bulls future stadium site in Harrison, NJ, might also be interested in D.C. United. They are a much better team, and Reyna did go to college in nearby Charlottesville, VA. Right now, it's all just speculation, so I don't mind adding my own musings to the rumor mill.

The cite for the WaPo article:


gillmp said...

I just came from your post at DKOS where I was late for the discussion.

I too am excited and stunned by the news of Beckham's signing. The MLS has been very cautious until now to avoid the mistakes that cost the NASL. I am trusting that they are still working to avoid those mistakes.

So far, Phil Anschutz has done wonders with his wealth to help build the game. MLS and the Galaxy may not be able to bankroll a $250 million contract; but, Anschutz can do so personally.

Other random thoughts:

I still don't know why MLS has spurned Rochester. The Raging Rhinos should have been in the league a long time ago.

My other dream is that MLS eventually sets up a system of promotions and relegations. -Maybe in my lifetime.

Fisch said...

Great random thoughts! I'll put this response on my front page, but I thought I'd put my own not as random thoughts here. I think you're right in your analysis about the Beckham signing. Anschutz has lost of money, and a great deal invested in the league, obviously. Not just in the Galaxy. It poses what would seem like a conflict of interest -- but in this case, what's good for Anschutz is good for the league, overall. He may focus his spending on L.A., and reap rewards elsewhere. Fans of other clubs will have to accept this arrangement, even if it disadvantages their favorite team.

As for the Raging Rhinos...I don't know if you mentioned them randomly, or read enough of my site to see that I went to college in Rochester. Would love to see them have a shot at the MLS. It's a small market, though, and a small stadium. I think, when there is a promotion/relegation system, they will be a frequent visitor to the top level.

And there will be a promotion/relegation system. A year ago, I didn't hear anyone discuss it. Now, everyone talks about it..and favorably. MLS 'owners' would not want to see it for many years...not until they've recouped their investment. On the other hand, if the league retains the single entity concept, such a system might come sooner than I imagine. Maybe within the next twenty years, depending on the talent level.