Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You say goodbye, I say hello

David Beckham has arrived in Los Angeles to save soccer (or football as David continues to call it) in America. Anyone around my age or older of course remembers this exact same scenario playing out with Pele coming out of semi-retirement to play for the Cosmos of the NASL. The similarities are striking.
  • Beckham is 32; Pele was 35
  • Both are/were players on the downside of their careers
  • Both are big names, easily recognizable to disinterested US fans
  • At the time, both are likely the only soccer players that most US sports fans could name
  • The NASL was 7 years into its existance and struggling for relevance; MLS is 11 years into its existence and struggling for relevance
  • Both signings were supposed to save soccer - the NASL still folded 7 years after Pele left; we'll see how long the MLS survives

None of the above is news to anyone who follows sports. ESPN, which owns the rights to broadcast MLS games, has been hyping this signing to no end. Nike, which owns has a contract with nearly every major athlete on the face of the planet, has given us endless Beckham commercials.

Recently, there has been a more important piece of news about the state of the MLS that hasn't been given nearly as much coverage. Freddie Adu, born in Ghana but raised in the US since the age of 8, and one of the most promising stars the US has ever seen, has decided to leave the MLS for S.L. Benfica, a Portuguese soccer team. This isn't shocking, as Freddie has been talking about this possibility for years now. The reason he's leaving? Not enough competition in the MLS.

For those of you scoring at home (or even if you're alone), that's plus one aging star on the downside of his career for the MLS, and minus one young rising star.

Soccer fans, who are often on par with cult members in their need to recruit new fans, will try to convince you that Beckham will save the MLS. Freddie Adu choosing to leave is easily the most telling fact about the state of the MLS.


Sarah said...

I think I'm too young to remember that... ;)

jersey said...

I guess I should have restated my intro to say, "Anyone who's not a zygote remembers..."