On Saturday David Beckham will take the field for the last time as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy. After six years, the final chapter in the (with a nod to Grant Wahl) Beckham experiment in Majort League Soccer is finally coming to a close. From a business standpoint, it’s hard to argue that Beckham’s tenure in the United States was anything other than an unqualified success. Despite the initial puffery involved with claims of $250 million contracts, early struggles on the field and missteps by Beckham himself, the league has seen a period of great growth over the last six years.
The reports of 300,000 Beckham jersey sales in the first year were not fabrications. The new television deal for the league with NBC (not to mention the $55 million deal for local broadcasts of Galaxy games), the proliferation of soccer specific stadiums, the increase in jersey sponsors (the first Herbalife jersey deal just became a 10 year $44 million extension) and the ever increasing expansion fees cannot be disconnected from Beckham’s bold decision to ply his trade in the States. Perhaps most notable is the remarkable increase in league attendance. The year before Beckham joined the league, MLS averaged approximately 15,500 fans per game in attendance. In 2012, the league managed a remarkable 18,800 per game at the gate.
Throughout his time in MLS, Beckham was a willing participant in media outreach, publicity campaigns and league showcases. Despite some questioning of his commitment at times, Beckham was a great ambassador for the league and never wavered in his efforts to promote MLS and soccer in America. Six years later, the soccer imprint on the American sports landscape is bigger, broader and more impressive. While not entitled to all of the credit, the signing of David Beckham was a significant factor in strengthening and sustaining the future of professional soccer in the United States.
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