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November 26, 2012
Garber says Beckham did what he set out to do--and more

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

MLS Commissioner Don Garber called Galaxy superstar David Beckham ďan unbelievable ambassador for the league and the Galaxy.Ē
MLS Commissioner Don Garber called Galaxy superstar David Beckham ďan unbelievable ambassador for the league and the Galaxy.Ē
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber says David Beckham accomplished everything he set out to do when he signed with the LA Galaxy six years ago--and then some.

Beckham has announced that MLS Cup this Saturday will be his last MLS game, although he is not retiring. Various reports have linked him moving to clubs in Australia, China, Europe and to the New York Cosmos as a player-part owner.

"When David came to MLS in Ď97 he said to us that he was not coming here to retire," said Garber, speaking during his annual state of the league call with reporters. "He was coming here to be a part of a team and work hard and hopefully win some championships, and very importantly he was coming here to help grow the sport of soccer in America and to make MLS more popular here and abroad, and I donít think anybody would doubt that he hasn't over delivered on every one of those measures."

Since Beckham signed with the Galaxy in January 2007, the league has added seven expansion teams and ten new soccer-specific stadiums.

"The expansion fee for Toronto was $10 million," said Garber referring to the last team admitted to the league before Beckham's signing. "The fee for Montreal was $40 million and itís fair to say some of our teams are worth far more than that today."

More importantly, according to Garber, Beckham raised the profile of the league both in North America and abroad.

"There is arguably not a soccer fan on this planet that doesn't know the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and David played a significant role in making that happen," said Garber. "He was an unbelievable ambassador for the league and the Galaxy and he was an incredibly cooperative guy with all the promotional and pr tasks that we and our clubs had for him, both in Los Angeles, when he was on the road, and for the league at a national level.

"His presence here and his experience with the Galaxy, served without doubt as a catalyst for other world class players to come to the league, from Thierry Henry to Rafa Marquez, Robbie Keane, Juan Pablo Angel just to name a few. "

Beckham was the league's first signing as a designated player, a player allowed to be signed by a team outside of the league salary cap, which has become known as the Beckham Rule. This season, there were 31 dps on MLS rosters.

Beckham's tenure with the Galaxy was not always a smooth one. He arrived injured after finishing up his contract with Real Madrid, and re-injured himself while playing in a SuperlIga game, causing him to miss six weeks of the season. His continued flirtations with the English national team and loans abroad two seasons in a row to A.C. Milan left some questioning his commitment to the Galaxy and the league. Those complaints were bolstered by the fact that he did not join the Galaxy until July in 2009 because of his loan to the Italian side, then missed much of the 2010 season while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon that he suffered while on loan with AC Milan.

Last year, in 2011, he delivered his best MLS season, staying relatively healthy, while foregoing off- season loans, leading the Galaxy to the MLS Championship. Garber said "he delivered last year on his statement that he wanted to win championships. Saturday's game will be his third trip to MLS Cup in the last four seasons."

Garber says he expects Beckham will continue to have a role within the league once his playing days are formally over. As part of his 2007 agreement with the league, Beckham has an option to acquire an expansion franchise. Garber points out the franchise option was not offered, but became part of the negotiation. It does not however extend to a possible New York franchise, but could somehow be converted to a stake in the Galaxy.

While some have hailed Beckham as a savior of MLS, most knowledgeable observers would agree the league didn't need saving, as it was already on the upswing. Nevertheless, Garber acknowledges Beckham accelerated that upswing.

" We needed David Beckham in 2007 to help drive our credibility, to help grow our popularity, and to show the world that the United States was ready to support a division I league at the league at the levels it could be supported around the world," said Garber.

" At that time, remember where Major League Soccer was. We had 12 teams at that time. We had not yet had the television relationships that we have today. Probably half the number of soccer stadiums and the league was much more immature. What we were looking for was a long-term partner in building this league, someone who was committed to working with us in creating more value for everyone.

"That's the role David played. I have no regrets whatsoever in any aspect of this deal. There is still a lot of work to figure out how that option gets executed and when it gets executed and where it gets executed what the details are. We believe it was the right thing to do at the time, and I sit here today in 2012 and believe today it will be a terrific thing going forward."

Garber says that while the league will miss Beckham both as a player and a personality, it no longer needs a Beckham.

"We don't need anything today to get us to the next level. Itís a wide variety of initiatives from player development to continued investment in our overall player pool to better and more focused marketing to smart expansion to a transformation into a digital world where our games are even more available than they are today.

"I believe moving forward that there will be another player that will surprise the soccer world like David surprised the world when he agreed to come to Major League Soccer. I donít know who that player will be but it's probably going to be one of the great players that's playing in Europe today."

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