David Beckham's announcement Thursday that he'll be retiring from soccer at the end of Paris Saint-Germain's season has prompted plenty of thoughtful pieces looking back at his legacy, but an underrated part of his career might be the impact he had on Major League Soccer in Canada. Beckham came to MLS in 2007, the same year that Toronto FC joined the league, and he left for good at the end of the 2012 campaign, by which time the league had three Canadian franchises that were all pulling in massive numbers of fans. He left an undeniable imprint on MLS as a whole, but his effect on MLS in Canada was also noteworthy—and for several different reasons.
Beckham's impact on ticket sales is most frequently cited when it comes to discussions of his MLS legacy, but in Canada, that was arguably less of a factor than it was in some weaker American markets. Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact have all had strong game-by-game attendance with or without Becks. However, Beckham's drawing power did still matter to the Canadian franchises. There was often much more attention from non-soccer-specific media ahead of games involving him and the L.A. Galaxy, and he undoubtedly brought people through the turnstiles who weren't previously soccer fans or MLS fans. Many of those people probably didn't wind up coming for game after game without Beckham, but some did, and Beckham was crucial to building awareness of the MLS brand and of the improving quality of North American soccer.
[Photos: David Beckham's career in pictures]
Don't underestimate Beckham's drawing power, either. Not all of the 47,658 who packed the Rogers Centre for a 2012 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match between TFC and the Galaxy came to see Beckham, but some of them certainly did. Games involving Beckham in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal also often saw much higher prices for tickets on secondary markets. The Canadian teams didn't need Beckham as a draw as much as some American markets did, but his presence still helped.
Don't discount what Beckham did for MLS in Canada beyond individual games, either. The Whitecaps (2011) and Impact (2012) both joined MLS after Beckham, and his elevation of the league's profile was an important part in why it was able to expand and why both clubs were so interested in moving up from the second tier. Moreover, both theRead More »from David Beckham left a notable multi-faceted impact on the Canadian MLS franchises