Major League Soccer Without David Beckham
By Simon Allen
The 2012 Major League Soccer Final is done and dusted. The History books will show The Los Angeles Galaxy beat The Houston Dynamo for the second year in a row on home ground, this time a bit more triumphantly than 2011. David Beckham walked off into the sunset completing his mission in the United States. What Pele only said he would do- David Beckham did. Soccer is now a mainstream sport in America and it's not a coincidence that it arrived and thrived during Beckham's watch. People will look back years from now and say Soccer finally arrived in America on Saturday July 21st 2007 and cemented it's place in American sports culture on December 1st 2012.
Countless bloggers have written about what the American soccer scene will be like now that the Face of MLS is not putting on a jersey and playing. The same folks have pondered who will be the next cash cow for MLS. Kaka's name has been bandied about in LA as DB23's replacement and MLS Commissioner, Don Garber as implied that Thierry Henry will pick up the baton. When all is said and done. NO ONE can do what Beckham has done in America. Even if you throw out twenty footballers names, none of them can bring to the table what Beckham brought in terms of perfect marketing and crossover appeal coupled with some pretty decent soccer on the pitch.
Some have mentioned (and I've been saying this for years on my podcast) that the next big superstar will not be on the pitch but else where in the business. Someone in the media? I doubt that! A manager? Possibly! A whole Team? Maybe!
Maybe there's one person that can turn the American Soccer upside down? Ronaldo? Yes! of course! But he's not coming to MLS so why bother talking about him? I'm talking about Diego Maradona. As a manager. People told me back in 2005 that Beckham would never come to America. Maradona would be a long shot but just imagine the frenzy. I'm not sure even Maradona would be half as big an influence as Beckham. Like I said. NO ONE can do what Beckham did.
One thing is for sure. MLS bigwigs are sweating. Beckham and The Los Angeles Galaxy sold tickets. Franchises around America could count on easy ticket sales when they showed up and now it may be a harder sell. History shows us that when Pele “retired” from the old NASL, attendance took a nose dive. MLS, even though a much better run business, will have to put their thinking caps on and come up with a plan that will counter the expected drop in attendance.
One person that can help the Post David Beckham MLS is David Beckham himself. Back in 1984, as the old NASL was breathing it's last gasps of air. The head honchos of the New York Cosmos seeing their impending demise. Decided that only one man could save them from slipping into obscurity and setting back soccer in America a couple of decades. Pele. They asked Pele to come out of retirement and play again. He didn't and The NASL was history. But DB23 can come back to MLS in the future. Not as player or manager but as commissioner.
Beckham would be a perfect figurehead for MLS. It's hard to argue against his business savvy, his playing career at the highest levels and the fact that he can attract stars to come play in America. Perhaps the next big thing in MLS will be a guy in suit in an office in New York?
I sat there at Home Depot Center watching the fans walk out of the stadium on December 1st. It was brilliant! I had just watched the greatest team in American Soccer History win MLS Cup. The people around me witnessed what was American Soccer's equivalent to Babe Ruth's final home-run or Joe Namath's last touchdown pass. I stayed there as long as could. I wanted to get it all in and enjoy the moment.
In the next couple of years. MLS will have to adapt to life without Beckham. Much will be written about the future of the League in the next couple of months. Most of it will be “pub-talk”, speculation and wishful dreaming. MLS always has been exciting... It's even more exciting now. Watch this Space.