David Beckham's arrival on North American pitches will be a boon for Toronto's fledgling pro soccer team, according to its owners.
Beckham announced Thursday he would leave Real Madrid and begin play with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer in August.
One of the teams Beckham and the Galaxy will face is Toronto FC, an expansion franchise that will start its inaugural MLS season in April.
Tom Anselmi, vice-president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the owner of Toronto FC, said the impact of the Beckhamannouncement was immediately felt.
Though the MLS schedule has not been released, the club confirmed that the Galaxy will play in Toronto once Beckham officially joins the team in August.
Hundreds of requests have poured in for tickets to the game,Anselmi said.
"He's one of those icons that transcend their sport, guys like Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods," said Anselmi, who likened the move to when Gretzky was traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles, a struggling hockey market.
"He's a huge international celebrity who happens to be a soccer player and a really good one," Anselmi said.
Toronto FC, the first team outside the United States since MLS formed in 1996, will play in a new 20,000 seat stadium.
Anselmi said Beckham's arrival in the league is just another reason to be upbeat about the club's future.
"Toronto is a really sophisticated soccer market and has been for a long time. Our ethnic mix and our participation rates with kids are growing like crazy — this is a great soccer market," he said.