OK, at first glance golden balls leaving MLS looks bad. His arrival was a much ballyhooed event and even the soccer haters throughout the United States had to admit that it was news. The jersey sales and tickets sales went through the roof and a lot of casual interest was generated that has definitely helped the league. The moment he signed on with the Galaxy he became the face of the league. Even his wife’s appearances on the talk show circuit generated some questions and interest in the league. Beckham’s impending departure leaves a hole in the league and there are not many, if any for an American audience, who can generate the buzz that Becks did.
Taking all of that out, and again, I know that it is a lot, David Beckham’s permanent transfer to AC Milan has some very strong positives for MLS. First, the idea that one superstar player can vault a MLS team to the championship is false. All of the talk when Beckham arrived was that he instantly made the Galaxy a contender, that his mere presence and vastly superior experience would carry the Galaxy into the playoffs and more than likely to a championship. It never happened. In the one and half years that David Beckham played in Major League Soccer, the Galaxy finished outside of the playoffs each season, pretty hard to do all things considered. Even though Cuauhtemoc Blanco was a strong addition to the Fire, he too could not get that elusive second championship to Chicago.
A closely related second point is that Beck’s success at Milan only further demonstrates that the competion in MLS is better than believed by the greater soccer community. Beckham arrived in Milan and played meaningful minutes from the get go and more importantly had an immediate impact. I am not, nor would I be crazy enough to suggest that his prescence vaulted Milan to the top of the league, but if MLS was so lacking in quality, then shouldn’t it take at least some time for a MLS player to adjust, or in Beckam’s case readjust, to the extra rigors of European soccer? Maybe the MLS isn’t a thrid tier league after all.
Third, if Beckham and Landon Donovan continue to have success in Europe, perhaps it will encourage more teams to look to MLS for midseason pick ups and more importantly, MLS will allow more of its players to make the move. Yes, I just said MLS is better than believed, but it still is not on par with European leagues. The more players MLS funnels to Europe, however, the better the reputation of the league will become. Also, by allowing more playes to move either on loan or trasfer two key benefits come back to MLS and US Soccer. First, MLS keeps its name in the news, always a good thing especially in the hypercompetitive sporting landscape that is American sport. Second, and much more important to US Soccer, it gives American players better competition and more exposure to the world wide game.
Finally, we get rid of Becks and Posh and maybe we can get someone a little better known for their soccer as opposed to their looks. Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry would look great in LA or New York, or I dare to hope, Chicago.