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Beckham in the MLS: Has he made a difference?

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With David Beckham poised to move to AC Milan on a loan deal, it is worth considering: What is he leaving behind here?

The Galaxy, wrapping up another losing season, has failed to reach the MLS playoffs in both of Beckham’s seasons with the club.

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MLS is not appreciably more popular than before Beckham arrived in Carson. Replica jersey and Home Depot Center ticket sales have increased, but the league remains lower tier in the mainstream American NFL-NBA-MLB-NASCAR culture and in the eyes of serious soccer observers.

Soccer itself, however, is doing fine here. As it was before Beckham joined the Galaxy.

Top-flight soccer has never been more accessible to fans living in the United States, thanks to soccer-specific television networks and the Internet. The problem for MLS has been the comparisons to those European powerhouses now so readily available for viewing. Given the time and chance to watch two hours of soccer, not many fans are going to choose the Galaxy over Manchester United, Arsenal or AC Milan.

Beckham’s presence in a Galaxy uniform never changed that.

So now Beckham steps up into the big time again. He wants to stay in the mix for selection to England’s national team, whose coach, Fabio Capello, says he wants players currently active -- in season -- as England proceeds with its World Cup 2010 qualification campaign.

If he makes a difference, for England, for Milan, that will be more than what MLS has to show for the first two seasons of Beckham In America.

-- Mike Penner


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