Next month could mark the end of an era in Major League Soccer as David Beckham will play his final game for the Los Angeles Galaxy. The 37-year-old midfielder and the Galaxy announced his decision on Monday, just one day after the defending MLS champions advanced to the league final.
Though Beckham hasn’t made any mention of a retirement or what his next move might be, it seems likely that the Dec 1 championship game against the Houston Dynamo will be his last soccer game; after that he’ll likely head back to Europe to play football.
“I've had an incredibly special time playing for the L.A. Galaxy,” Beckham said in a statement. “I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career. I don't see this as the end of my relationship with the league, as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future.”
The Beckham experiment has been full of mixed emotions by MLS fans over the past six seasons.
When the longtime England captain and Real Madrid star announced he was crossing the pond and heading to the MLS in January of 2007, the league hoped bagging the world’s most famous player would help draw new fans and begin the sports’ steady incline in the United States. His five-year contract was worth $32.5 million, but add in all the endorsements and it was a more like a $250 million move.
Beckham certainly lived up to the hype throughout his tenure – when healthy – proving to be among the league’s top players and he fit in nicely with fellow teammate – and the country’s biggest star – Landon Donovan. The problem is that he missed significant time over the years thanks to ankle injuries, knee injuries and being loaned to Europe.
Beckham missed nearly half of the 2009 MLS season after he was loaned to A.C. Milan of Spain’s Serie A league and didn’t start the season with the Galaxy until the middle of July. Like many times throughout his time with the Galaxy, it appeared as though his MLS squad was second fiddle. After his original deal expired, he agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy last January, turning down a potential move to Paris Saint-Germain and at least one Premiership team. Or so Beckham claims.
The league certainly has prospered since signing Beckham, expanding from 13 teams to 19 throughout the U.S. and Canada, while the Galaxy signed the most lucrative television deal in MLS history last year. But it’s difficult to think that Beckham accomplished what the league brought him in to do. He was built as a player that fans would pay big bucks to see, though that wore off rather quickly. The hope was Beckham would help make soccer the fifth major sport, displayed on televisions throughout the country. That’s a lot of pressure for one man.
Are there things he could have done differently to help prove his loyalty to MLS fans – yes? That might be why his MLS career ends with a yawn, instead of the celebration it began with.
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