A great pioneer of American sports is at risk of leaving us forever. This is a man who single-handedly changed the landscape of professional athletics in the United States. He did so with a slick mixture of supreme skill and boyish charm. The world over speaks his name with a hint of admiration and jealousy. I’m, of course, speaking of Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham. (OK, maybe the whole “admiration and jealously” thing is more about the 90s version of Beckham, but he’s important nonetheless.) And it should ail us all to think he would leave America after his contract is up this year (taking his Spice Girl wife, Posh, with him).
Wait! Don’t stop reading, I can explain. First of all: yes, America does still have a functioning soccer league. Secondly, David Beckham really is much more to the landscape of American sports than a shirtless poster on a middle school girl’s walls.
Soccer in America, Major League Soccer in particular, was in its awkward infancy before Becks arrived on scene in early 2007. Upon signing to the Galaxy for five-year deal worth 32.5 million, the globe’s attention turned Stateside (gasp!). Since then, soccer here has grown exponentially. Beckham’s media spotlight lit the stage for American fans to better see the Beautiful Sport here and abroad.
And all the while he became an integral part of the Galaxy club: helping them to three straight finishes at the top of the Western conference; earn back-to-back Supporters’ Shields (an award that goes to the club with the best regular season record) in 2010 and 2011; and two MLS Cup Finals appearances in 2009 (which they lost to Real Salt Lake 5-4 in penalty kicks) and 2011 (which will be played on Nov. 20 against Houston Dynamo).
On top of it, Beckham has been having his best season since coming to America. He finished second in the league in assists (behind the never-aging Houston midfielder Brad Davis), and was a key component to the Galaxy finishing first overall in goal difference (+20).
But now it’s all at risk as Becks enters the final game in his contract with the LA Galaxy, the aforementioned 2011 MLS Cup Final versus underdog Houston Dynamo. It would be the cherry on top for him to go out with a MLS championship title. But it would be even sweeter if his taste of success persuaded him to stay. As long as Beckham remains Stateside, soccer fans here benefit.
If he left, I shudder to think of what may happen: young girls may tear down their posters in a tearful fit of rage; the Spice Girls would become irrelevant again; and American soccer would lose one of the most recognizable names in sports. All we can do is hope for the best, I suppose. Now, if you’ll excuse me; I have a poster to hang up.