David Beckham to leave Los Angeles Galaxy after Major League Soccer championship game
David Beckham will leave the Los Angeles Galaxy after the team plays in the MLS Cup Final on December 1.
Beckham has been with the Galaxy since 2007. In six seasons at the Home Depot Center the former English national team midfielder recorded 18 goals and 40 assists. He also greatly enhanced Major League Soccer's reputation in the United States and worldwide, drawing big crowds wherever Los Angeles played.
MLS' increased popularity during the Beckham era was a significant factor in the signing of a three-year television contract with NBC Sports, which is owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast. That contract was agreed to last August and came into effect at the start of 2012.
For as much as Beckham did to grow soccer in the United States, he also carried a reputation for not always putting his soccer career ahead of other interests. While he played in all 16 of the Galaxy's playoff games during his time in L.A., he only played in 98 of the team's 176 regular season games - approximately 56 percent.
Among other things, Beckham was deeply involved in London's bid to host and successful delivery of this summer's Olympics. He played a major role in the Opening Ceremonies, driving the Olympic Torch to the stadium via speedboat on the Thames River.
That came just days after Beckham played for the MLS All-Star Team at PPL Park. In fact, Beckham flew from London to Philadelphia a day before the All-Star Game, then flew back to London right after the final whistle.
Beckham's departure from the Galaxy right now means it is highly likely that fans in Philadelphia won't get to see him in person again. Los Angeles did not play in any of the U.S.' major eastern markets this year, but will visit all of them - D.C., Philadelphia, New York and New England - next season.
The farthest east Beckham got this year was Montréal, where a record crowd of 60,860 watched the Galaxy play the Impact at Olympic Stadium. Beckham also drew a sellout crowd at the Chicago Fire's Toyota Park, but in Columbus the attendance was well short of capacity.
As Beckham signed a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy this past January, it was widely believed that he would make the cross-country trips in 2013.
Where Beckham goes from here is unclear. Rumors in recent weeks have linked him with a move to Australia's A-League, which recently unveiled a new TV rights deal after luring big names such as Alessandro del Piero and Emile Heskey.
Just hours after the news of Beckham's departure from L.A. broke, the chief executive of the Melbourne Heart told Australian TV network SBS that he'll bid to get Beckham's signature.
Melbourne's roster currently features former Philadelphia Union midfielder Fred. Once PPL Park fan favorite, the Brazilian is strongly in favor of having Beckham as a teammate.
"Oh my gosh. Every game is almost [a] full house," Fred said of Beckham's fan appeal. "Especially I think the women come to watch him. But he's good. If he comes it will help the league 100 per cent."
Other Australian clubs reportedly chasing Beckham's signature include the Perth Glory, Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers.
There's also interest in Europe. Famed rapper Snoop Lion is trying to bring Beckham to Scottish powerhouse Glasgow Celtic as part of a move to buy an ownership share in the team.
There may be one more twist in the plot, though. The Galaxy's press release announcing Beckham's departure from the team does not say whether he is leaving Major League Soccer entirely. That fuelled some speculation Monday night that Beckham could be headed for another MLS team.
But it was later reported by Sports Illustrated that the aforementioned contract extension was set up as one season and a one-year option at the player's choosing. If Beckham chose to not exercise his option, it is much more likely that he is leaving the U.S. for another country.
British bookmaker SkyBet published odds on Beckham's next destination Tuesday morning. Melbourne Heart is a 4-to-1 favorite, followed by big-spending Paris Saint-Germain at 9-to-2. The French club's Qatari owners have tried to lure Beckham in the past.
Perth Glory is third at 6-to-1. And the fourth club on the list would definitely get the attention of Union fans. The New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia's biggest rival, have 9-to-1 odds of being Beckham's next team.
No matter where Beckham ends up, don't be surprised if he returns to the United States at some point. His first contract with MLS gave him an option to buy into an ownership role with a franchise when his playing career ends, and he still wants to take up that role.
"I've had an incredibly special time playing for the L.A. Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career," Beckham said in the Galaxy's press release. "I don't see this as the end of my relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future."
Also in the release, MLS commissioner Don Garber said that "there is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when [Beckham] arrived."
"David has achieved great things on and off the field during his time with the Galaxy, and he will always be an important part of our history," Garber added. "We look forward to his continued involvement with the L.A. Galaxy and the League."
For now, all that is certain is that Beckham's time in Los Angeles is done. His farewell will come on home soil, as the Galaxy host the Houston Dynamo in MLS' championship game next month. If L.A. wins that game, it will be the team's fourth title, tying the all-time record in MLS history.