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Jul 20, 2007

Beckham is making dollars and sense for L.A.

The crunching noise coming out of the Home Depot Center on Saturday if and when David Beckham debuts against Chelsea (8:30 p.m. ET., ESPN) won't be coming from the worrisome injury to his ankle. It will be the sound of moneybags clanging together.

Like Scrooge McDuck swimming through his pool of coins, the Los Angeles Galaxy and the ownership group of AEG are swimming through a financial boom. David Beckham hysteria has hit Los Angeles and it is affecting the club in a major way. For a team whose bottom-line was already solid by MLS standards -- the Galaxy lead the league in attendance with over 22,000 fans each home game -- it is a case of the rich getting richer.

"The L.A. Galaxy has operated at a profit for a number of years," said team general manager Alexi Lalas. "We anticipate that, while our expenses have certainly increased, our revenues will be substantial and our profits will be at an all-time high.

"At a certain point this season, we anticipate that half of the Home Depot Center will be season-ticket holders. We are approaching 300,000 jerseys [sold] after the first week of sales. In a city that has seen its fair share of glamour, glitz and publicity, nothing has ever approached the scenes from last Friday's presentation of David Beckham, and we've only just begun."

Any question that Beckham has created a major buzz by signing with the Galaxy can be laid to rest. Consider this: Famed Internet portal StubHub, an online seller of tickets, has been utilized by fans to purchase tickets for the Saturday exhibition with Chelsea since the friendly was announced. The average price for a ticket to a Galaxy game on the site, pre-Beckham, was $58.00. For his debut match, the average ticket is going on StubHub for $176.00. Do the math quickly, and that is triple the average price.

The numbers get more impressive and jaw-dropping. Ticket prices on the site for Beckham's MLS debut range from an affordable $55 to nearly $2,000 for a seat along the field. The most-expensive ticket sold to date is nearly $800. In comparison, the Chicago Fire offer full-season tickets at midfield for $800 -- that's a complement of all 16 MLS home matches plus international exhibitions.

To contrast further, StubHub reports that last year's All-Star game is the only soccer event in the site's history to come close to these prices. The match featuring the MLS All-Stars versus English club Chelsea had tickets going for $146.

Need further proof? Consider the June 9 return of Roger Clemens to Yankees Stadium in pinstripes; seats were going for an average of $65. Ken Griffey Jr.'s return to Seattle a few weeks ago went for slightly more: The average ticket price for that game was $75.

It is the type of demand never before seen in MLS and rarely seen in the sports world. Already, tickets have been purchased in 27 states, a number only seen for prestigious events such as the Super Bowl or NASCAR events. Fans are coming from all corners of the country for this event with California obviously leading the way, representing 79-percent of the site's sales. Arizona (4 percent), Nevada and New York (3 percent) and Georgia (1 percent) represent the rest of the top five.

"L.A. has always been a hot market for sports tickets, from the Rose Bowl to NBA games, but to see such demand hit soccer is a real surprise," said Sean Pate, director of public relations for StubHub. "Right now, this game has outsold all Clippers games last year on our site and all but a handful of Lakers games, which is really amazing."

While the Galaxy do not profit from the inflated prices seen on StubHub as fans scramble for prime seats, they are seeing increased interest and exposure and it is affecting the fiscals in a noticeable way.

"The positive impact on our business has been felt since the announcement in January. From the tripling of our season ticket holders, to a historic jersey-front sponsorship deal, to the merchandise flying off the shelves, we continue to see a phenomenal return on our investment," Lalas said.

"Add to that, the value of the international branding of the L.A. Galaxy, and it's safe to say that there is a method to any perceived madness when it comes to the signing of David Beckham."

Note to Alexi: It appears that the "madness" has only begun.

Kristian R. Dyer covers U.S. Soccer and MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He appears regularly in the New York City newspaper Metro. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com.