The Beckham Experiment

How the World’s Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America

I’m looking forward to Beckham’s return. It will add some excitement to the MLS and soccer in the United States. Beckham is a quality player, and he has brought a new focus to the MLS and I’m sure his quality has rubbed off on other players. It was an amazing move really, to come to the MLS, don’t think he’s going to stay, but it was fun while he was here.

He paid a pretty sum to leave the MLS and join AC Milan on loan. He will now ride out the rest of the MLS season and then look to sign with a new club in Europe. The new book explores some of the behind the scenes moves in Beckham and his entourage coming to the MLS, and his relationship with Donovan.

If there ever was an indicator that American soccer and the MLS has come into it’s own, it’s a book of soccer gossip and tales from what seems like a story from so long ago. Especially what with the recent success that the U.S. had in the Confederations Cup.

I’d have to say that I would read it though, just to see what went on behind the scenes. What if Beckham returns and the Galaxy win the MLS Cup final? That’s the ending the MLS I’m sure is hoping for, and Beckham too.

An excerpt From Grant Wahl’s new book about David Beckham coming to the MLS:

After his five-month loan to Italian superclub AC Milan, David Beckham is expected back with the Los Angeles Galaxy and scheduled to play on July 16 against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium. But when he takes the field the mood will be far less giddy than the one that heralded his arrival in the U.S. in 2007. In Beckham’s two years with the Galaxy he has successfully sold jerseys and served as celebrity eye candy, but the soccer story has been an epic disaster, from his injury-plagued season in ’07 through a loss-filled campaign in ’08.

Beckham’s side made sure he became team captain, and later they engaged in a behind-the-scenes takeover of Galaxy management. Yet L.A. failed to reach the MLS playoffs both years. By the end of the ’08 season Beckham was barely speaking to his teammate Landon Donovan, MLS’s leading scorer, who questioned the Englishman’s commitment to the team.

The Beckham Experiment is a story of worlds colliding, bringing together the planet’s most famous athlete with teammates who earned as little as $12,900 a year. But that inequity was only the start of a downward spiral that, on the eve of Beckham’s return, has turned into a soccer fiasco.

The summit meeting took place at Mastro’s, a high-class steak house in Beverly Hills. On July 25, 2007 — three days after their welcome-to-Hollywood party, hosted by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — David and Victoria Beckham joined Landon Donovan and his wife, Bianca Kajlich, for a get-to-know-you meal. At the Home Depot Center, 10-foot-high profiles of Beckham and Donovan stared at each other from huge banners. Now, for the first time, the team’s two biggest stars were facing each other across the dinner table.

Nearly anywhere else in the world, Donovan’s achievements would have made him a household name, a fixture on the covers of sports magazines and (considering that his wife starred in the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement) celebrity rags. As a 20-year-old at the 2002 World Cup he had scored the goal that sealed the most important victory in U.S. men’s soccer history, a 2-0 second-round defeat of archrival Mexico. Now 25, Donovan had won three MLS titles and been voted the national team’s player of the year a record three times. Yet it was his fate — equal parts fortune and misfortune — to have been born in the U.S. Which is to say that the three dozen paparazzi outside Mastro’s were not there for him.

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