Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beckham Signs With The MLS

David Beckham, celebrity husband, has signed with the LA Galaxy for a reported $250 million over five years.

Good for the league? Yes and no.

First off, he won't be getting most of that in salary. Granted, he'll be getting paid over five times the second highest contact in MLS history with $10 million a season. However, most of the money will be coming from renewed endorsement deals and merchandising. Don't be surprised if he rakes in just $150 million over five years. Poor baby.

What he will do for the league is flywheel the mainstream media attention now that Freddymania is dead. That won't last. It's also good for the league if he attracts more big-name players to come over, within reason. AEG, the Galaxy's owner, has deep pockets. With the MLS's designated player rule, MLS will only pay the first $400,000 of his contract. AEG pays the rest of it as well as some supposed profit sharing. Less affluent need to beware. The NASL went out of business because owners tried to duplicate what the NY Cosmos did, but didn't have the backing of Warner Bros. to do so. If the Revs were to ever try this, they would be offering far less. I'm hoping a team like KC doesn't even think about it, because that would be the end of the Wiz.

His presence will also raise attendance when he travels to each stadium for the first time. Since he won't be joining LA until August, it is highly unlikely we'll see him in Foxboro until 2008. This logic lead Chivas USA to trade their DP slot to NY a month ago. They'll see higher home attendance from visiting stars while they strengthened their team with Amado Guevara. Some are expecting the Revs to follow suit.

This signing does raise some interesting questions. If an owner of an MLS team is willing to pay one player that much, why are there so many players making under $50,000 a year? I'd be upset if I were a guy like Andy Dorman who contributed so much on the field last year but is only making EITC wages.

There's also the question of AEG spending so much money for a player on LA, yet owning two other MLS teams. Will they spend even a fraction of that on a DP for those teams? Not likely.

I welcome the signing for the league. However, I have no expectations of mainstream America adopting soccer as a major sport. Only years of producing talent that can compete with the world's best can we even begin to think about competing with France's and Holland's league for quality players in their prime. There's also a lot of economic growth MLS needs before this can happen. If it does, many more players will want to come to America to both live and play soccer in a good league.

Is Beckham the first step in respectability? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll just have to wait and see.