FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 16, 2007
Superstar David Beckham's arrival gives soccer a boost in the U.S.
Pro soccer gains visibility from new TV contracts with ESPN and Univision (a Spanish-language network), as well as from David Beckham’s arrival. Have class members discuss whether newspapers generally give enough coverage to the sport. Can students find soccer reports this week that don’t mention Beckham?
The stylish British newcomer joins other flashy, fashionable celebrity athletes who have an impact beyond their games. Invite pupils to come up with more examples and look for recent photos or articles featuring them in non-sports activities.
Recreational soccer is the most popular sport for American boys and girls. Ask students to list possible reasons why Major League Soccer doesn’t attract more adult fans yet. Do they think media coverage is a factor, and do they expect that to change now?
Pro soccer in this country has its first superstar, international sports icon David Beckham – a 32-year-old multimillionaire midfielder from England who’ll play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, one of 13 teams in Major League Soccer. He settled into his new home in Beverly Hills last week with his wife, former Spice Girls singer Victoria Beckham, and their three sons. “My real goal is to take soccer to a different level here. . . . I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could make a difference,” says the world’s wealthiest soccer player, who could kick the sport to higher popularity among Americans.
“Becks,” as the Brits call him, is creating a huge splash even before he suits up Thursday for an All-Star Game near Denver and then makes his Galaxy debut Saturday in an exhibition game against the Chelsea Football Club, a top British team. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated and front pages nationwide, and drew an international media mob of more than 700 journalists to his first L.A. news conference. He even was featured each day last week in the Tank McNamara comic strip.
All this could mean a turning point for the 11-year-old league, which is trying to carve a niche in a country dominated by football, baseball and basketball. Soccer’s relatively limited appeal here is shown by the size of the Galaxy’s new open-air arena in Carson, Calif. – which has 27,000 seats, 11,000 fewer than the smallest Major League Baseball stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. Beckham hopes to “make people more aware [of soccer] and make kids realize that you can go into higher levels and make a great living from playing soccer.”
Commissioner says: "This is the story of a star at the top of his form coming to Major League Soccer. David will raise the credibility of our league." – Don Garber, head of Major League Soccer
Beckham’s pay: $5.5 million a year for five years, plus $1 million annual marketing and promotional bonus. Sponsorship fees, a share of TV rights and a cut of team merchandise sales add millions more.
Teammate says “ "Some guys are probably jealous, but 90 percent of the league is ecstatic. His presence should help the league overall." -- Landon Donovan, star forward with the Galaxy and U.S. national team
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