Time for the United States to Join the Party
By Jeff Kassouf
David Beckham. What does the name mean to you? Depending on your level of interest in soccer, it may mean a La Liga champion, a man who won the treble with Manchester United, or simply a guy who can bend free kicks. Or, you might just know him for his status as a global icon or his wife Victoria. Either way, you know the name David Beckham.
Major League Soccer. What does this name mean to you? To some Americans, it is their top flight of professional soccer that they support day in and day out with all their heart. Others choose to laugh at the league and find some team to route for that is thousands of miles away on another continent. And then, there are those that simply don’t give the time of day to the sport.
Well America, it is time to wake up. Whether you choose to ignore the fact or not, you are now in the presence of the most recognizable figure in the world. Yes, David Beckham – a soccer player – is the most identifiable celebrity in the world.
Regardless of what silly contests like ESPN’s “Who’s Now” want to tell you, his appeal is larger than that of every NFL, NBA, and MLB player. He is even bigger than Tiger Woods. Anything and everything that he does is a lead sports story in countries all around the world.
But why is this not the case in the good ole’ United States of America?
Soccer is the world’s number one sport. It is treated with ten times the passion of anything that we can imagine here in the States. If only this demographic included the United States, fans of the game in this country would be so much happier.
It is the hope of not just the Los Angeles Galaxy, but Major League Soccer, that David Beckham will help boost the profile of the league domestically and internationally. He has already done so, with MLS being a main fixture on shows like Sportscenter and Sky Sports for the first time ever.
However, he is not a savior. He will not score a goal every game, and he may not always have the opportunity to bend one of his magical free kicks. In order to fully appreciate the skill that Beckham possesses, the casual fan needs to become more in-tune with soccer in general.
One way that they can do this is by watching – and supporting – MLS in general. Maybe you have gotten caught up in the craze that is David Beckham and you are now a fan of Los Angeles and MLS. That is great.
Maybe you are somebody who hates taking the bandwagon approach but is still intrigued by “Beckhamania.” With the new exposure the league is getting from him alone, you can look into other teams in MLS that you may choose to support. How many of you live in Columbus, Kansas City, or even New York and don’t know that you have an MLS team in your market? You are who I am talking to.
When you finally give the league a chance, you will see qualities similar to the ones that make you love baseball or basketball. The games are exciting and exemplify athleticism. Fans are passionate, and the players are skillful and motivated. Better yet, they are home-grown talent straight from your back yard.
Major League Soccer may not be up to snuff with the top European leagues, but it is home to some of the best players in this country that fans can rally behind. So, if you are sick of listening to news about players having run-ins with the law or cheating, or if you simply feel like trying something new, give soccer and MLS a fair shake and you will be amazed to see how much more there is than just the great David Beckham.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org