Beckham effect 'pretty significant' on MLS

Thu Mar 5, 2015 5:00pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As Major League Soccer prepares to open its 20th season, the impact made on MLS by former England captain David Beckham during his six years with LA Galaxy is widely viewed as "pretty significant."

Though Beckham's time in the U.S. began unpromisingly as he was sidelined by injury and then skipped several Galaxy games to play on loan with AC Milan in Italy, his eventual influence on the sport extended well beyond his performances on the field.

The former Manchester United player, who became soccer's first household name in the United States since Pele, was instrumental in helping popularize the game in a country where it traditionally struggled for mainstream attention.

Blessed with good looks, a celebrity wife and a talent for self-promotion, Beckham appeared on popular late-night talk shows, in the pages of glossy magazines and broke into sports media empires normally the preserve of NFL and NBA stars.

"Beckham was brought in to bring sex appeal to a Los Angeles team sorely in need of a star," Daniel Durbin, director of the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media and Society, told Reuters.

"As the team representing Hollywood, the Galaxy now had the biggest celebrity in soccer and someone who regularly appeared on "sexiest man alive" lists and who was married to one of the Spice Girls. You can't get much more Hollywood than that.

"Beckham was a perfect match for that environment. It turned out even better than expected with LA having a very strong team and MLS starting to pick up a fanatical fan base, especially in the Northwest and particularly in Portland, Oregon."


David Beckham attends a press conference at Google's headquarters in central London, February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls