Editor’s note: Max Bretos anchors ESPN’s studio coverage of Saturday’s MLS Cup (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET) which will signify the end of David Beckham’s six-season MLS career. Front Row asked Bretos, who has covered the league since its inception, to give his thoughts on the “Beckham Effect” and what his invovlement in the league has meant for soccer.
It is a day I can vividly remember. I was in Indianapolis for the 2007 NSCAA Convention. I came into a convention hall, full of everybody who was anybody in American soccer. They were all buzzing with news that the David Beckham move to Major League Soccer was imminent.
It was amazing, the most recognizable player in the world, a year or two away from his prime, was coming to the United States’ fledgling league.
And now, after six seasons, “Becks” has announced Saturday’s game will be his last.
Ever since his arrival, Major League Soccer has done nothing but move forward, at times taking major strides. Was it all due to a “Beckham effect?”
Probably not. But he was the guy that seemed to set it all off. Soccer-specific stadium construction ramped up, an infusion of great young talent from Central and South America entered the league and MLS is in better shape than when Beckham arrived.
Things were much different in MLS B.B. — Before Beckham.
Like any upstart, the MLS went through growing pains. Progress can be slow at times.
I remember broadcasting the 2004 Western Conference Finals with Kansas City playing LA at Arrowhead Stadium, and there might have been 5,000 fans there. It took away from the grandeur of the moment. That would never happen today, and it was in part thanks to Beckham lighting the fuse when he came here.
Obviously, it has not all been rainbows and unicorns with Becks. His constant midseason field trips grew tiresome. I was disappointed, when even after he was not selected for the London Olympic team, he still left the Galaxy for a month. Watching him courtside at Wimbledon while his teammates were slogging away during the grueling MLS summer calendar left a very bad taste in my mouth.
At the end of the day, I truly believe we got very close to his best effort during his MLS career. He was popular with his LA colleagues, and he will leave — win or lose on Sunday — as a success on and off the pitch.