David Beckham, Posh Spice’s favorite midfielder, will return to Major League Soccer and the LA Galaxy in July.
With millions exchanging hands, the domestic soccer circuit and A.C. Milan have reached an accord that will keep Becks in Italy on loan through May and the end of the Serie A season. The world’s most marketable soccer player will then presumably play a couple of World Cup qualifying matches for the English national team in June, before re-entering the Galaxy on July 15, when the international transfer window reopens.
As such, Beckham will miss half of the MLS season, but as part of the accord, Milan will visit his home pitch, the Home Depot Center on July 19.
That should garner some headlines for MLS, enabling the league to break through a bit on the American sports landscape during a time typically ruled by the Major League Baseball season and the opening of American football camps.
And that, after all, was supposed to be Beckham’s role in LA: to create more attention for futbol in the States, where the first two years of his contract have goosed merchandise sales and attendance, if not necessarily TV audiences on a consistent basis. It would have been nice if the Galaxy made the playoffs along the way as well.
Although Becks did raise awareness for MLS, America never went consistently ga-ga over the famous futboler. Conversely, there could be a backlash, if he looks to play for the English side in a friendly during August and a host of WC qualifiers this fall.
While U.S. national team matches and the World Cup (even in the middle of the morning) have performed well for the ESPN family of networks, MLS has not exactly played big, averaging some 250,000 viewers on average with a Thursday-night primetime window on ESPN 2 the past two seasons. This year, the network will move the matches around its schedule, with live-game action serving as a lead-in, rather than an attendant studio show, to presumably stoke viewership
What becomes of Becks after the 2009 MLS season? Some reports suggest he can opt out of his $32.5 million, five-year contract with the league after the upcoming campaign. If that’s the case, ESPN2 and Fox Soccer Channel have precious little time to capitalize with the Nielsens on his remaining Stateside playing days.