Friday, July 13, 2007

The Beckham Blitz!

Look out America...David "Bend it Like" Beckham is here!

Beckham, who was met by a crush of reporters and cameras at Los Angeles International Airport upon arriving Thursday night from London, will be formally introduced today on the field at Home Depot Center in Carson. But the British star already has proved he will have an impact at the box office, in stores and in the media.

The article then goes on to detail all the various ways that Beckham is going to make an incredible amount of money (hint: he will not make most of his money playing soccer.)

I'm not prone to celebrity worship, but I do love me some soccer and I'm very excited about the impact this will have on Major League Soccer and American soccer in general. It's easy to look back on expensive boondoggles of the past (NASL anyone?) or make comparisons to a tendency in MLS' early years to bring over tired and aging soccer stars in an effort to get Euro soccer snob's interests, and it's entirely possible that this whole thing could fall on its face and Beckham could be back to Spain or England or whoever else wants to pay him insane amounts of money next year. But the fact is MLS has carefully and quietly built up a very real market in America, as proven by greater fan interest and more importantly, more money:

Team owners also are anticipating that Beckham's arrival, when coupled with new soccer stadiums being built and a stronger television presence, will drive up franchise expansion fees. Two years ago, the league sold rights to an expansion team in Toronto for $10 million. Leiweke and other MLS owners believe it's possible for the league to sell four new franchises in coming years for $30 million or more each, which would represent a premium.

That expectation "seems to be both credible and, possibly, conservative," said Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College economics professor and author of "National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer."

"It's not outlandish in my view. … There clearly is growing interest in the MLS."

And MLS and everyone else with a finger in the pie have carefully managed Beckham's roll-out as well, as the article details. The hope is that Beckham's debut won't dwarf MLS, so much as pump it up. We'll see. Oh and in case anyone is wondering, yeah he's still got the moves.

I won't be donning the jersey of the hated LA Galaxy anytime soon (even if it has Beckham's name on it) but I don't know why any fan of MLS and American soccer in general wouldn't be excited by all the hoopla.

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