David Beckham has gone out on top, again. He is leaving Major League Soccer in 2012 as a Champion with the LA Galaxy, as he did previously when he left Spanish La Liga with his Real Madrid taking the crown and before that when he left the Premier League’s Manchester United who also took the crown in his last season in 2003. The man knows how to go out on top.
And this season didn’t start with any inclination that he would be able to 3-peat his Title Crowned exits.
At one point this season the Galaxy were 3-8-2, holding a firm grasp on last place in the Western Conference. But they turned it around, much the same as they had when Beckham first arrived, when the team was, to be nice, not that good.
Beckham’s exit off the pitch is just the beginning. His future on the pitch may or may not be over, but he won’t ever be far from it. He’s made his intentions to own an MLS franchise public and as luck would have it, the LA Galaxy are up for sale. I wonder if he’s interested…
But beyond ownership, the impact David Beckham had on the MLS will be everlasting. He legitimized the league only he could. At this time, it is still a place where premier players can still shine bright in the twilight of their careers. Beckham’s Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane, and other stars like Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry came to the MLS and have elevated the level of play even in what is the twilight of their careers.
The possibility for stars like Frank Lampard or Kaka landing on American shores next season ensures that for the time being, the MLS is going to be a haven for “not-so-passed-their-prime” stars in the league. It also means that Beckham’s legacy will be everlasting. And this is just the beginning.
Players like Didier Drogba, who took a money grab to play in China, may start looking to the MLS for big paydays as the league and it’s profits grow. Make no mistake that the MLS is no longer just a league for American’s who can’t go play overseas. It is a legitimate league with a high level of competition. This is Beckham’s greatest contribution.
Will there ever be a time, when big time free agents willingly choose the MLS over the Premier League, Spanish La Liga or Bundesliga? Not for now, but maybe. The league is still in it’s infancy by comparison to the history of those legendary leagues, but at this moment, as Beckham hangs up his cleats the LA Galaxy are the giants of the league, with a worldwide following, with lovers and haters alike, which has helped catapult the MLS into the conversation of European soccer fans and sports television.
With all the fanfare around Beckham’s exit, it’s a little sad that US star Landon Donovan’s possible retirement gets lost in the shadows. He’s had a hand in growing interest in US Soccer on a national level. His contributions of making the US National Team relevant, inspired a generation to get on the pitch, insuring that the MLS and the world will have a new crop of talented Americans to choose from in the near future.
If this was the last time we’ll see Beckham and Donovan on the pitch, it’s fitting that these two giants, who did so much for the MLS and American Soccer, go out on top. What’s in the cards? What’s next for them? I don’t think they know yet, but for the MLS and US Soccer, it’s time to ride the high and thank Beckham and Donovan for their contributions.
The MLS is now on the international map. This is a fact that cannot be taken lightly and it comes with the responsibility of keeping it there.
The spotlight is on you MLS, don’t screw it up.