David Beckham is a soccer player - maybe you've heard of him? Yes, I think it's fair to say that most people have at least heard of him and - even if not familar with his resume - know that he's a footballer.
Is Beckham in MLS going to work out? Who knows. The day this was announced last spring - and the money was disclosed - I was skeptical, but hopeful. There are so many shades of the NY Cosmos (of the long-defunct NASL) signing Pele in the 70s - big name, loads of money, big crowds, media attention - but an absolute wreck of a business plan and the league blew up just years later.
Beckham will be getting somewhere between $30 and $50 million over five years from the Galaxy and MLS - and somewhere around $200 million in profit-participation and additional endorsement deals. Spending that kind of money on soccer in America is a MASSIVE risk.
But you have to take big risks to reap big rewards.
Addidas and the Galaxy announced yesterday that they have already sold over 250,000 Beckham jerseys. They have increased season ticket sales by 4,000 plus. MLS got their first paying TV contracts. A five year, 8-figure new jersery sponsorship.
This just might work out. And not ONLY due to the dollar and cents...
"It's not a big brand thing," Beckham insists. "It's about me being the ambassador for MLS. If I can make people more aware and make kids realize that you can go into higher levels and make a great living from playing soccer, that's what I'm going over there to do."
Everything this guy is saying about the game, the game in America, and growing the sport is right. Does he really believe it? Is he really here for an early retirement - or acting - or his wife's career? That is the question. But, if he's genuine...wow...
This could pay off because he puts soccer and MLS in the minds and on the lips of millions of Americans who never would have before. More kids play, more fans watch, more folks buy jerseys, more investors want to buy teams... all of that takes time - but those are the lasting impacts that could make this deal pay off beyond the financial concerns. Pay off by truly making soccer a "major league" sport in America.
The key difference between Pele and Beckham is this - Pele was brought here to grow soccer on the sports map in America. But there was no foundation, no infrastructure, so fertile soil if you will, to grow the sport...and so the attempt did not sick, the seed didn't grow.
Beckham doesn't have to establish soccer in America. Soccer IS established now - we've got a strong league, with financially savvy owners, expansion, stadium construction, good players, a strong national team, etc., etc., etc. Now soccer in the US has a foundation, an infrastructure - fertile soil. So now, the hope is that Beckham will really be the seed that grows US soccer into a whole new realm of popularity, credibility, and significance.
I was very skeptical of this deal - but the leaders of MLS (managment and the investors) have been such solid cultivators of the league - I think this is a big risk that just might pay unimaginable rewards.
The Americanization of Beckham - Sports Illustrated (Grant Wahl)