Other Sports

Beckham in US: He came, he sold, he conquered

201212011946712039676-p2.jpeg

Beckham in US: He came, he sold, he conquered

David Beckham came, he sold, he conquered.

For the first two years after he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, he was more of a brand than a player, his impact at America's cash registers far greater than any transformation on the field.

By the time the 37-year-old English midfielder played his final game in Major League Soccer on Saturday, he had achieved his goals athletically in addition to financially, winning two more titles and expanding the U.S. audience for his sport. He gained attention for his play, not just for his ever-changing hairstyles, Spice Girl wife and celebrity friends.

``When I decided to come here, I think I raised a little bit of interest, and I hope that's what I've done,'' Beckham said. ``If that's the single thing that I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It's a 17-year-old league and the foundations are great. It will continue to grow.''

The league expanded by about 50 percent, with new teams announced during the Beckham era that started play in San Jose (2008), Seattle (2009), Philadelphia (2010), Vancouver and Portland (2011), and Montreal (2012). That raised the total to 19.

Ground was broken for soccer-specific stadiums in Houston, Kansas City and Philadelphia, the long-delayed venue in New Jersey was completed, and extensive renovations took place in Montreal, Portland and Vancouver.

MLS' regular-season attendance averaged 15,504 in 2006, the last season before Beckham left Real Madrid to sign with the Galaxy. It was up to a record 18,807 this year, still well short of the record 44,293 set by the Bundesliga in 2011-12 and the 35,356 for England's Premier League.

Beckham said his goals were to win and increase awareness of the league both domestically and abroad.

``I don't think anybody would doubt that he has over-delivered on every one of those measures,'' MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. ``There's arguably not a soccer fan on this planet that doesn't know the L.A. Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and David played a significant role in helping us make that happen. He was an unbelievable ambassador for the league, for the Galaxy.''

Beckham made his debut for Manchester United's first team in 1992, the year when he turned 17 and played alongside Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville for the Red Devils' winning team in the FA Youth Cup. By 21 he made his debut for England's national team.

He helped United win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League. Sold to Real for 35 million euros (then $41 million), he won Spain's La Liga in his fourth and final season.

By then, he already had announced he was moving to Los Angeles. While his handlers and the Galaxy hyped the deal as being worth ``in excess $250 million,'' it turned out to be a $32.5 million, five-year contract. Still, he earned 50 times the league's average of $129,395 in 2008 and twice as much as any other player.

Following his first Galaxy appearance, in an exhibition against Chelsea, he was given a welcoming party hosted by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. A crowd of 46,686 showed up for his MLS debut on Aug. 9, 2007, at D.C. United.

While injuries limited his playing time, the five games he played averaged 37,659 fans - in a league where the overall average that year was 16,770. MLS jersey sales rose 780 percent.

``I don't think there's any doubt that David has increased the visibility of MLS and the sport more generally,'' U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. ``That very positive impact will be felt for many years.''

When Beckham arrived, his mind seemed to be on England as much as it was on California. He commuted back to play for England's national team, hoping to make its 2010 World Cup roster, and played on loan for AC Milan in early 2009 and 2010. While in Italy, he tore his left Achilles tendon, ending his England career after 17 goals and 115 appearances - second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125.

Only after the injury did he seem to focus on MLS. His relationship with Galaxy co-star Landon Donovan improved - Donovan took back the captain's armband - and Beckham helped Los Angeles to three straight league finals - beating Houston in the title game in 2011 and this year. He scored 20 goals in 116 competitive appearances over 6 1/2 years.

Only in television ratings did MLS fail to achieve a long-term boost. The league's regular-season telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 311,000 viewers this year, up less than 5 percent over 2007.

Rafa Marquez, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane followed him to MLS. Frank Lampard and Kaka may become the next big stars to join the league.

The very best players, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, are far too good and far too expensive to leave Europe for MLS right now, a league still in its developmental stage.

Beckham, though, made it acceptable for stars just past their primes to trek across the Atlantic as salesmen and scorers. After the next stop in his playing career - likely the last - Beckham intends to return to MLS as an owner.

``I know it's the No. 1 sport in the world. There's other great sports here, of course, I believe it can compete with the basketball. I believe it can compete with American football and baseball,'' Beckham said. ``That's why I'm totally committed to that.''

---

AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

5.19.18: Rick Horrow The Sports Professor talks with IndyCar icon Lynn St. James

usatsi_10846851.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

5.19.18: Rick Horrow The Sports Professor talks with IndyCar icon Lynn St. James

Rick Horrow The Sports Professor sits down for an exclusive interview with Lynn St James and more from the $1 trillion dollar business of sports in this week's 'Beyond The Scoreboard with Rick Horrow'

By Rick Horrow

Podcast Producer: Tanner Simkins

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

Quick Links

Wizards' first pre-draft workout to feature Diallo of Kentucky, local star from UMBC

usatsi_10718260.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Wizards' first pre-draft workout to feature Diallo of Kentucky, local star from UMBC

The Washington Wizards will hold their first pre-draft workout on Tuesday at Capital One Arena and the group of six players features some familiar names. 

Included in the mix is guard Jairus Lyles, who starred for the Unversity of Maryland-Baltimore County and helped lead them as a 16-seed over top-ranked Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. It was the first 16-over-a-1 upset in the tournament's history.

Here are the six players with some notes on each one...

Chris Chiozza, guard, Florida (6-0, 175)

Chiozza played four years at Florida and finished as the school's all-time assists leader. He averaged 11.1 points, 6.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game as a senior.

Hamidou Diallo, guard, Kentucky (6-5, 198)

Diallo redshirted in 2016-17 and played one season for the Wildcats. He averaged 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 45.8 percent from the field. Diallo measured 6-foot-6 with shoes at the combine and boasts a 7-foot wingspan.

Tiwian Kendley, guard, Morgan State (6-5, 190)

Kendly was a big-time scorer at Morgan St., averaging 21.0 points as a redshirt junior and 26.1 points as a senior. He took a lot of shots, however, averaging 18.2 field goal attempts on 45.3 percent from the field this past season. Kendley starred at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland before joining the college ranks, first at Lamar Community College.

Jairus Lyles, guard, UMBC (6-2, 175)

Lyles was the leading scorer for the Retrievers this past season as they became the biggest underdog Cinderella in NCAA history. He averaged 20.2 points and shot 39.0 percent from three on 6.1 attempts. Lyles began his college career at VCU and played high school ball at nearby DeMatha.

Doral Moore, center, Wake Forest (7-1, 280)

A three-year player at Wake Forest, Moore had a breakout season as a junior with averages of 11.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Moore played with Sixers star Ben Simmons in high school.

Ray Spalding, forward, Louisville (6-10, 215)

Spalding played three years at Louisville and averaged 12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 steals per game as a junior. He posted a 7-5 wingspan at the NBA Combine. Spalding played with Jazz star Donovan Mitchell in college. 

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!