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Jan 11th 2007

beckham signs with galaxy of MLS

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David Beckham coming to MLS might be viewed by some as one of the most important moments for soccer in this country and perhaps in the history of professional sport. [source]

that statement is a little over the top, but for those of us who love soccer, this is great news. in at least a few ways, it is similar to the NHL’s LA kings’ signing of wayne gretzky from the edmonton oilers almost two decades ago. after gretzky’s migration (as well as various other factors contributing to hockey’s huge US growth), the NHL enjoyed a bit of a boom.

california alone added two NHL expansion teams. winnipeg’s (canada) team moved to phoenix. quebec’s (canada) team moved to denver. florida added two teams. atlanta, a city that lost the flames to calgary years earlier, got the thrashers. nashville got the predators. columbus, ohio got the blue jackets. USA youth ice hockey participation more than doubled between 1991 (the earliest year i saw statistics) and 1997, from under 200,000 kids to over 400,000. and those numbers don’t even count huge surge in those participating in in-line hockey leagues (because i couldn’t find those stats).

not only did participation increase, but so did american competitiveness. US men and women won silver in salt lake in 2002, where the american sledge hockey team took home the gold in the paralympics. the US women earlier won gold in 1998 in nagano. the US has also finished well at two recent IIHF world junior championships. in 1997, they won silver, in 2004, gold. 8 americans were selected in the first round of the NHL’s 2005 entry draft, the most ever. until last year, that is, when 10 were selected.

admittedly, wayne gretzky’s move to LA did not occasion all this. there was the mighty ducks movie (1992) (although its positive effects surely were mitigated by atrocious sequels), the rise of video games and the enormously popular EA sports NHL series (early 1990s-present), strikes in other major US sports, and the spread of the in-line skate.

however, who is to say gretzky’s move wasn’t the slide that started the avalanche?

and in one way, beckham’s move is perhaps more significant than gretzky’s was: beckham’s move takes him from a league at the center of the soccer world to the MLS, which is really just a bottom-dweller. beckham’s presence could attract potential fans, inspire other marquee players to sign with MLS teams, and raise the level at which american professional soccer is played. i hope he finds success in LA.

5 Responses to “beckham signs with galaxy of MLS”

  1. doug

    Amen!

    Argentines would scoff when I told them the U.S. league would be a top soccer league someday.

    This is one of the first steps to that goal.

    The U.S. sports market is so ginormous (economically) that even if soccer only competes with the hockey and golf (and Nascar?) behind the big three, it will have the economic muscle to become one of the top four or five leagues in the world.

    If soccer ever becomes a truly major sport in the U.S. like basketball, football, or baseball…well, watch our Europe…

  2. doug

    Maybe the MLS can adopt the slogan, “Come play here, our fans won’t beat you up.”

    Only in Argentina. 😉

  3. briant

    how could you call the knuckle-puck atrocious? i think this will be a good thing, but we already had Pele here and that didn’t help. i hope the timing is right and that becks plays well here. i for one am going to buy a beckham jersey to ensure he gets all of the $250 million. (on a related matter, for some reason i always make the mistake of calling his wife “sporty spice”).

  4. N Chung

    The pornographer’s husband is coming!!!

  5. […] and since that time, I have been thinking about the buzz from this game. I went back and read what I wrote when I first heard about Beckham’s Tin Balls’ signing 18 months ago. I have been […]