This week marks the tenth anniversary of the official signing of David Beckham with the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer (MLS). As the most recognizable player in the world at the time, a move to the Galaxy and MLS was seen as a huge move, in many ways it elevated the team and league but also put a spotlight on American soccer.
At the time of the move Beckham was still playing in Spain for soccer giant Real Madrid as a “Galactico,” the term given to the Galaxy of stars that occupied the team at the time. He was 32 and still a world class player, a move to America where soccer popularity was still in an infancy and MLS as a league was still considered a minor league of sorts.
Becham’s goals for the move were simple:
“Soccer is huge all around the world except in America and that’s where I want to make a difference,” said Beckham at the time.
Ten years later it’s interesting to see what impact the Beckham move made overall.
First it elevated MLS as a league overall. The league had been created in 1996 as a guarantee in order for U.S. Soccer to host the 1994 World Cup. By 2007 the league had struggled with expansion and contraction of teams, only a handful of teams played in their own stadiums in fact most still played in huge NFL or College stadiums to small crowds.
With the exposure of the Beckham move the league was suddenly moved from the back pages to the front pages of sports, Beckham became the first MLS player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Now the league is as profitable as ever, expanding into more markets like Orlando, they have exposure internationally through TV deals with ESPN and Univision, and since the Beckham move have attracted other great international players who bring even more credibility to the league.
The move also has elevated American soccer as whole, now when the U.S. Men’s or Women’s teams play in high profile international competitions it is must see T.V. as fans flock to outdoor venues in droves to cheer on team USA. Those fans very likely were exposed to soccer for the first time as coverage of Beckham ratcheted up during his move to MLS.
On the field Beckham continued to be just as celebrated, though he struggled with injuries at times his play elevated the Galaxy as they ended up playing in three MLS Cup Finals while he was on the team winning back-to-back cups in his final two years.
It wasn’t a perfect move but it was probably close to it, David Beckham deciding to bring is his brand may have been more about celebrity instead of sports at times. It can not be doubted that the move ten years later was certainly a success that changed the landscape of soccer in the U.S. and certainly for MLS.