Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
I remember the first time David Beckham came to MLS.
It was in 2004. On my FIFA video game, in my apartment, after a few beers. Congratulations Columbus—I moved almost your entire roster to make that move work!
Okay, back to life, back to reality. David Beckham announced he was coming to MLS in January 2007, official July 1 2007.
Love him, hate him, irritated by him, as an American soccer fan, I owe him a great amount of gratitude.
As soon as the move was announced it changed the league’s stature. Immediately rumors focused on “what’s next? WHO is next?”.
Rumors like Brazil’s Ronaldo would come to MLS next (the rumor at the time was to New York, for 10 years, 120 million), rumors of Zinedine Zidane coming to the Chicago Fire, then a rumor putting him with the New York Red Bulls. The Beckham move made it possible that talk of a legend like Zidane possibly gracing our shores wouldn’t be immediately dismissed. (Seriously can Zidane still come here? I don’t care if it’s 2012. I’m sure he can still move.)
The Beckham move made things all the more exciting for Philadelphia because we were officially granted our own franchise a year later in February of 2008. Immediately following that announcement, we had rumors of Raul and rumors of Clarence Seedorf putting on the blue and gold in time for kickoff in 2010. These were big time players, and them coming to MLS to play for us, well, that would have been crazy talk just a few years prior (maybe it still is). Even this summer when Raul came to Philadelphia for his final game with Schalke, Union fans buzzed for him. Heck one fan even game him the Union jersey off his back! You can see him carrying it off in the picture to the left.
How do I know that a fan did that? It was me, it was my jersey.
All this was possible because Becks made that move to these shores. I haven’t read too much press on “what’s next” for him, though I’m interested. Does he go back to England and wear the Man U shirt one last time? Paris? Australia? China? Brazil? Even more interesting (to me anyway) is who does LA spend the money on to replace him? Lampard? How about Ronaldinho? Though I’m up for suggestions, I can’t think of many names that would match/increase Beckham-esque attendance and buzz within the league as much as Dinho would.
Either way, in Philadelphia, three years in, we’ve had world class player rumors, we’ve seen world class players and teams visit our very own soccer specific stadium, we’ve seen huge attendance as recently as topping 19,000 fans at the All-Star game this summer.
MLS is in a very good place.
Is Beckham the credit for all of this? No, but he definitely helped push the recognition of the league both in the US and worldwide. We fans in Philadelphia, we need to tip our cap to what he’s done.
I wish him well.