Thursday, January 11, 2007

MLS: the footballer's retirement home.

It's really the only sensible assessment you can make when reading over David Beckham's announcement that he's headed to Major League Soccer and the L.A. Galaxy come August of this year. When your team in Spain hits a serious slump during your tenure there and you're booted off your home country's national team, you come to the U.S., home of lowered expectations for soccer among the die-hards and general ignorance from the rest. Beckham and his has-been pop-star wife can raid the high-end areas of Hollywood in relative obscurity, and I imagine that's got a bit to do with the reasoning.

All parties involved from MLS are spouting the usual platitudes about how landing Beckham in the league will unleash some sort of soccer renaissance in the U.S. Two problems:

1) It already kind of started. Didn't you guys notice the World Cup ratings last year?
2) The real soccer explosion will start when American players get a clue and figure out they have to go abroad on Euro club teams to get good -- thus, meaning they play better in international matches.

Paradoxically, MLS can't get bigger and better without home-grown U.S. talent and international players on the wane, but if the backers were really interested in building soccer in the U.S., they'd slow the league down and take a backseat to the Euro leagues. Soccer has its fans (myself among them), but it won't make the impact in the States that MLS honchos would like until USA Soccer gets its act together.

(God, I remember having a crush on Posh Spice back in the day, but now she looks like a Real Doll brought to life -- and I don't mean that in a good way.)


endzoneINT said...

I agree with your MLS perspective. However, Beckham's career move has zero to do with soccer and everything to do with marketability. The man is mega-star in every country except the US, which he has cracked but has been unable to dominate b/c of the sheer volume of our hollywood. Plainly put- an average british soccer player lands on pg.3 b/c we have too many other stars making the cover (Tomkat, Bradjolina, JessiLindsBrit, etc).
Beckham refocuses the spotlight on himself by moving his family to LA to be seen on a daily basis. He'll make 10x as much $ in publicity than he will playing soccer.

Signal to Noise said...

Sure, you can still sell Beckham -- he might be great for the visibility of the sport, but Pele he is not and never will be. He will cash in big time and give the sport a bit of flash, but will he pull jersey sales like, say, Kobe? Not in this lifetime. We have too many high-watt stars in the U.S. for him to make a serious dent in the public (never mind sporting) consciousness.

The problem is that MLS needs substance, too. The publicity will attract dilletantes, but the fans who follow the international game know better and the curious will either figure out there's little there and give up or latch onto the Premiership when they realize what a real match looks like.

Now, is MLS aware of this? Probably. Did they sign him in spite of that? Definitely.