1/12/2007 Add a comment

Of course, the answer to Will’s question about whether Beckham is bad for American soccer is “it depends.” I’d say it depends mainly on three as-yet-unresolved questions:

  1. How healthy is Beckham, and can he play at a high level at age 31? If he plays well, he’ll get more ESPN highlights, more tv time, and more attention to soccer, which is good. He’ll sell tickets and jerseys, and his success (and giant payday) will likely encourage other international players to follow in his footsteps…you have to think that the rumors of Ronaldo to the NY Red Bulls in the next couple of years will be a self-fulfilling prophecy if Beckham plays well and expands his American fame.
  2. How MLS can afford to pay him that much but at the same time allow their best players to leave for Europe? This is critical, the best Americans have to play abroad to be able to be successful at the World Cup, because the speed of the European game is twice as fast as the MLS. So the MLS needs to both recruit international talent, allow domestic talent to leave, and still not break the bank. We need a soccer player trade surplus!
  3. Will Freddy Adu develop in time for 2010? I know that seems out of the blue, but it’s not Beckham who’s going to inspire the next wave of players in the US, it’ll be an American. Or at least a quasi-American who plays for the US national team. Because when the World Cup rolls around in 3 years, Beckham will be watching it on his couch. Basically, I don’t think Beckham can be the difference-maker for US soccer in the long-term, but Freddy can.


  1. Blogger ben: one answer to Question #2 is already in: the huge salary numbers for Beckham are a myth...they're only paying him around $36 million for 5 years, not $250. That number includes all of his worldwide endorsements. That said, MLS still has to allow the best young American talent to leave the country to improve. 1/13/2007