American soccer is better without boost from Beckham

Dec. 10, 2012

Jonathan Toman
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Now that David Beckham has played his final game for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, Dec. 1 in the Major League Soccer Cup Final, we can begin to safely evaluate the impact he has had upon the sport of soccer in the U.S.

David Beckham is the worst thing that ever happened to Major League Soccer.

I can understand the thinking behind bringing Beckham to the U.S. in 2007. For MLS, it was an opportunity to bring a foreign player home, to help grow the game through star power.

For Beckham, it was an opportunity to tap into the then-untouched reserves of American soccer money. Beckham got his part of the bargain; the MLS did not. Bringing Beckham here was like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.

His role as ambassador for the game in America never materialized. This was especially true in his appearances in Denver when the Galaxy played the Colorado Rapids.

According to The Denver Post, of the five games Beckham’s Galaxy played in Denver through the 2011 season, he played in merely one.

Beckham alienated a Colorado sports base that had paid money to see him. I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, as injuries do happen. But perhaps he has an irrational fear of altitude.

The Band-Aid came with Beckham in the form of the media circus that followed his arrival in America. Interest in soccer momentarily rose, but since that arrival, he has had a limited effect on soccer in the U.S.

I remember when the Rapids won the MLS Cup Championship in 2010. Keep in mind this is the equivalent of the Broncos winning the Super Bowl or the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup. This achievement barely registered on the radar screen in the state of Colorado, though.

This is not the sort of change Beckham was supposed to bring. Of course, it is tough for one man to change the culture of a nation.

But soccer in the U.S. has not grown faster due to Beckham. It still wallows in the role of a secondary sport, and bringing in Beckham, though he was charged with a difficult task, did not help at all.

The MLS now needs something completely different from Beckham. Since when has the United States relied on foreign countries to grow our sports? The MLS is well past relying upon aging foreign superstars for news coverage.

We need a new generation of home-grown, selfless stars built in the model of Beckham’s much less flashy cohort in Los Angeles, Landon Donovan.

I do not see the game of soccer growing in the U.S. without home-grown stars that people can rally behind. David Beckham was never what the MLS needed, and we should let him go without any tears.