Beckham can put the 'Major' in MLS Cup | Soccer | CBC Sports

MLSBeckham can put the 'Major' in MLS Cup

Posted: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | 11:18 PM

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David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy, pictured here during the MLS Western Conference Championship against Real Salt Lake, could play in his last match in the upcoming MLS Cup. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy, pictured here during the MLS Western Conference Championship against Real Salt Lake, could play in his last match in the upcoming MLS Cup. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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The stage is set. The pioneer is on the brink of achieving another milestone. It could be his last in a colourful career which has spanned nearly 20 years. If so it would be a fitting finale for the man and provide a huge boost for the sport in a land where soccer has never been king.
The stage is set. The pioneer is on the brink of achieving another milestone. It could be his last in a colourful career which has spanned nearly 20 years. If so it would be a fitting finale for the man and provide a huge boost for the sport in a land where soccer has never been king.
 
David Beckham makes a difference. On or off the field his presence draws a crowd. He is a rock star in a soccer uniform and he likes it that way. Brand Beckham is news, particularly in celebrity obsessed Hollywood where a drive-by glimpse of his mansion tempts visitors to climb aboard the Celebrity Homes tour bus.
 
Love him or hate him, Beckham is hard to ignore. Whether it is the numerous tattoos or the frequently changing hair style, he is an entertainer. He has backed up his flamboyant lifestyle with a professionalism few of his peers can match. At the age of 36, Beckham still has the skill, the stamina and most importantly, the desire to win.  
 
He remains good box office. Beckham doesn't automatically fill MLS stadia the way he once did. The novelty factor has come and gone but most teams enjoy a healthy increase in demand for tickets when the former England captain is in town.
 
There certainly won't be many, if any, empty seats at the Home Depot Center on November 20th. The fact the LA Galaxy will enjoy home advantage at the MLS Cup, combined with the fact it could be Beckham's final game will ensure virtually a full house for the 2011 showpiece.
 
This is a game the Galaxy must win. With all due respect to Houston and their amiable head coach Dominic Kinnear, Los Angeles must triumph for the good of Major League Soccer, the profile of the sport in North America and the League's global image.
 
The MLS Cup needs to matter to more than just the two contestants. It will only do so if it has a picture of Beckham hoisting the trophy. We have been here before. Just when MLS commissioner Don Garber thought his prayers had been answered, Nick Rimando and Real Salt Lake stole the silverware from the Galaxy in a penalty shoot out two years ago.
 
He would never declare it publicly of course, but Garber's worst nightmare would be a victory for Houston. Such an outcome might make headlines in Texas but it wouldn't tempt the Times of India, the Sydney Morning Herald or the Daily Telegraph to reserve a space for a beaming Beckham along with his co-stars Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
 
MLS cannot afford another forgettable MLS Cup. Huge credit to Colorado and Dallas and the hardy fans who turned up in Toronto a year ago, but the game did little to mask the reality it was a poor show from two nervous teams on a cold Sunday night. The fact it went to extra time just piled on the misery for many.
 
It will be very different this year. The stars will come out to play on a balmy night in Southern California and Beckham's presence may well entice his showbiz pals to show up and cheer him on, especially if it is to be his professional swansong. The 2011 MLS Cup must be among the 'can't miss' events of the year.
 
Despite the cynics and naysayers, Beckham has been good for Major League Soccer. Without his influence it is questionable whether others would have followed his lead. Angel, Henry, Marquez and Frings have all crossed the Atlantic to embrace the growing soccer culture and help lift the profile.
 
The bar has been raised. MLS is inching towards global credibility - not bad for an organisation which is barely 15 years old. Significantly the League has made it more affordable for its member franchises to attract leading young talent rather than aging pros whose best years are behind them.
 
Beckham falls squarely into the latter category. Only he knows how long he can continue playing and his body will be the first to tell him when time's up. Until then, he's still got it. He can still cause havoc with his curling crosses. He has just enjoyed his most productive year with 15 assists during the regular season, a figure topped only by the Dynamo's Brad Davis.
 
That doesn't sound like a man who's ready to hang up his boots. On the contrary, I believe Beckham is still motivated by what may lie ahead. I am sure he has one eye on next summer's European Championships. He has never retired from international soccer and, having missed the 2010 World Cup through injury, nothing would give him more satisfaction than to force his way back into Fabio Capello's England squad.
 
Already the overtures have begun to take him back to his homeland. Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is a big admirer and with the Spurs' boss tipped to succeed Capello there may yet be an international future for Beckham.
 
In short, MLS needs Beckham to win its big prize. It has waited 5 years for this moment. It needs him to flash that famous pearly white smile while holding the Anschutz trophy to adorn every magazine cover and every sports website and be reported on radio and TV around the world.
 
It would be a marketing bonanza. It would give the League the voice it needs to yell across the globe, and, more importantly in its own backyard, Major League Soccer has finally come of age. 

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