Looks like pro soccer will be getting a new lease on life now that David Beckham is in the mix - and playing for the Galaxy to boot! It's hard to see how the guy doesn't become a Kobe-like celebrity, especially with the good looks, beautiful wife, stupendous wealth and worldwide affection. If only he didn't have to play, er, soccer. "David Beckham will have a greater impact on soccer in America than any athlete has ever had on a sport globally," said Tim Leiweke, president of AEG, which operates the Galaxy and two other Major League Soccer teams. (Too bad they can't fit a soccer stadium into the L.A. Live complex - now that would really be marketing synergy.)
Not to put a damper on all this excitement, but Galaxy average game attendance has slipped from 30,129 in 1996 to 20,814 last year (It fell to as low as 17,387 in 2001). Surely they'll be packing Carson's Home Depot Center next season - for the curiosity factor if nothing else. (The place was sold out in 2005 when the Galaxy played Real Madrid.) That's what happened with the NY Cosmos in the 70s when the team signed Brazilian great Pele for $5 million (crazy money back then). But the game never really took off in the U.S., as many had expected at the time. Now, Beckham is getting $250 million over five years - even though his best playing days are behind him. Is this really the long-awaited elixir for pro soccer in the U.S.? I wonder. Here's what Jamie Trecker of the Fox Soccer Channel had to say:
Paid attendance for (MLS) games is sluggish and despite signing deals with ESPN, Univision and Fox Soccer to carry its telecasts, there are real questions about the product on display. Bringing in a genuine star might help expose more people to a sport that still lags badly behind its competitors in both quality and status. The last time the league had a star it could trumpet — the teen phenomenon Freddy Adu — game-day sales did increase. If Beckham can attract and hold mainstream interest, he may well be worth whatever the league pays him. Should Beckham be the light that can draw fans to the American game, the only question remaining will be: what's next? Will other MLS teams follow suit and begin to import the talent American sports fans have always craved?