COMMENTARY | The most famous footballer in the world and undeniably one of the most well-known individual entities in the history of world sport is calling it a career. Is it only a matter of time before he returns to the United States as an owner of a new Major League Soccer franchise?
David Beckham has announced that he is retiring from football following the completion of the current season. Sky Sports News quoted the current Paris Saint-Germain player and two-time MLS champion as having stated the following: "I'm thankful to PSG for giving me the opportunity to continue but I feel now is the right time to finish my career, playing at the highest level. If you had told me as a young boy I would have played for and won trophies with my boyhood club Manchester United, proudly captained and played for my country over one hundred times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world, I would have told you it was a fantasy. I'm fortunate to have realized those dreams."
So many individuals see the man as "Brand Beckham" that they either forget or fail to realize just how good a player he was when in his prime. He won titles in four different countries, and his free kicks, one in particular, were the stuff of legend. Two years ago when some perceived him to be a "washed up" former star, Beckham was the MVP for LA Galaxy during their playoff run.
Not everyone will agree that Beckham was a significant positive for MLS as a whole. Average attendance for LA Galaxy home matches in 2013 has dropped by nearly 2,000 fans per game since Beckham left the league for PSG following LA's second consecutive MLS Cup victory, something that can certainly be attributed to the team being without their most famous attraction. Others, however, would argue that Beckham was always far more about the man than he was about the league or about growing the sport in the US while he was part of the Galaxy.
Looking forward, Beckham's biggest contribution to North America's top-flight league could be the clause in his MLS contract that allows him to become a franchise owner once he is officially retired as a player. He was once linked as a potential owner of a New York Cosmos MLS club, but league commissioner Don Garber told reporters last fall that New York would never be an option for Beckham. Garber also told reporters last month that the Cosmos will not be the next New York league franchise.
Recent reports have linked Beckham with the effort to place a team in Miami. The southeast is the only region in the country to have zero MLS franchises. Tampa Bay and Miami once had teams, but both of those clubs unceremoniously left the league in 2001.
Numerous intelligent people within the American soccer community would say that Orlando City remains the most MLS-ready location in that particular region. USL Pro side Orlando City Soccer Club has a bigger local following than does MLS outfit Chivas USA, and the Florida team recently got a new investor. The city's hopes for being granted a MLS club took a hit earlier this month after the death of a bill that would have provided funding for a soccer stadium. That's a problem that could easily be fixed by the game's most famous face offering up some charm and, more importantly, a bit of cash.
Beckham was, throughout his stint in the league, vocal about wanting to own a MLS team once he called time on a legendary playing career. Orlando City may not be Miami, Becks, but the two are only separated by a 3.5 hour drive.
That trip takes even less time when using a private jet.
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, New York Red Bulls, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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