Since arriving in the MLS in 2007, David Beckham has taken the league by storm and in true Blockbuster fashion won the MLS cup in his final game, but what’s next for the former England captain?
Beckham has done more off the field for ‘soccer’ than what he did on the pitch. During his time with LA Galaxy he scored 20 goals in 117 games during five-and-a-half-years in which he won the MLS cup on two occasions.
In American sports they are big on facts and figures as it is a simple form to recognise the success of individuals. The MLS best XI of 2012 did not feature Beckham, in fact he has only made the list once in his six seasons in America. What is even more remarkable is the fact that he has not been named the LA Galaxy’s MVP during his stint in California. To English readers this might not sound like a big deal but to the American sports fan it is the greatest recognition.
Beckham arrived in the country aged 32, fresh from success in Spain with Real Madrid. He might not have been at his peak but he entered the US with plenty of ability to give what wasn’t a big league.
To look at the success achieved by Beckham, something Americans love doing is looking at figures, so here we go.
In his first season average attendances were 15,500 which has risen to 18,000 this year. Six franchises have been created in the six years he spent in the MLS, which is proof enough that interest in the game has increased.
On his arrival he pledged his future to the Galaxy, which he did, which can only be rewarded but, he also promised to increase the popularity of the game.
While ‘soccer’ remains one of the less viewed of sports in America and many people in America would have missed the razzmatazz that Beckham brought over, for the English football fan, or for the football fan in general, we now know what the MLS is. He may not have revolutionised the MLS but he has certainly helped it grow and realise its potential.
When looking at the MLS today you can see household names which have appeared in the Premier League, Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill. Beckham is surely the catalyst which has paved the way for these football stars to reach the States.
It can be little coincidence that during his time with the Galaxy, the MLS commercially is a bigger organisation, ticket sales have increased, stadiums which are used only for ‘soccer’ and as just mentioned big star names are interested in plying their trade in the MLS.
Beckham has changed the image of the MLS, now his time in LA is over, what will be next on his list?
He has certainly not had a shortage of offers, a return to the Premier League, West Ham and QPR both showing an interest. A move to France, AS Monaco or Paris Saint-Germain the likely destinations there, not unrealistic as it would be another major city ticked off the list that Victoria can immerse herself in. Or what about a trip to Australia?
A-League teams, Perth Glory and Melbourne Heart are keen for Beckham to head Down Under to a league in a similar position of that of the MLS when he first started.
At the age of 37 Beckham is more of a brand ambassador than he is a player, so a venture to Australia would work for him. The league has already seen the arrival of Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero and with the arrival of Beckham, interest could rocket.
In my opinion this would be his best bet if he wanted to continue playing first team football. A move to England or Europe probably would be ideal for him as he comes closer to home, but unfortunately his ability is not what it used to be.
The offers on the table all have varying attractions, Brazilian clubs Corinthians and Flamingo are interested and could be an interest for Beckham as he would be one of a very few English footballers to compete in the spiritual heartland of football, I see this however as unrealistic.
What I think would be ideal for Beckham is to stop playing while he is relatively at the top of his game, having just won the MLS Cup he will finish as a winner, he can now execute his right to own his own franchise and help the MLS grow in that capacity as he uses the power of his image to build his own brand.
Whatever happens next for Beckham he will remain one of the biggest cult heroes the game has ever seen.