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Jul 22, 2007

No pressure on injured Becks to play - MLS

Major League Soccer chief Don Garber has denied David Beckham is under pressure to play while injured.

The 32-year-old England international made his debut for LA Galaxy as a late substitute in his new club's 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in front of a sell-out crowd of 27,000 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California last night.

The interest created by Beckham's recruitment has seen ticket and merchandise sales soar, and the clamour for him to make an appearance in last night's game as he battled against the ankle injury he picked up in Estonia with England last month grew during the build-up.

However, MLS commissioner Garber was adamant no pressure had been applied on the player or his club.

He told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek show: 'I will not acknowledge at all that anyone, whether it's the league or the team, is putting pressure on David to play soccer games. It's absolutely not happening.'

Garber also played down fears of a conflict between the MLS, Galaxy and England over Beckham's availability for friendly games if he remains in Steve McClaren's plans amid fears over the effects of repeated trips across the Atlantic.

'He is no different than any other player in our league,' Garber said. 'Our players are released probably more so than any other players in any other league around the world.

'We released our young American players to play in the Copa America, and that's not a mandatory FIFA tournament.

'Our league is of the belief that players who perform for their national team add profile to our league and it is a great statement for the quality of playing Major League Soccer.

'David is fit and his level is continuing to improve by playing in our league, so we are absolutely supportive of anything that David or the English national teams hopes to do with him.

'Obviously, with World Cup qualifiers and other mandatory tournaments, the league is not given any choice.

'As relates to friendly matches, I am sure we will manage that the same way we manage that with all our other players.'

Beckham's arrival in the United States has attracted huge attention and already increased the profile of a sport which is dwarfed in popularity by American football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

Garber is convinced the Beckham effect will help to attract other high-profile players to the States.

He said: 'That time is going to come at some point.

'This clearly is the first world-profile player to come to the league, and the league now is growing and our television contracts are all in place.

'There is lots and lots of popularity and interest in the sport today, far more so than at any other time in the history of the sport so, if this works out with David and LA Galaxy, I can really assure you that in the yeas to come, there will be more players coming here.

'It's a great country, it's a growing league, it's a great place to live, and I believe if we are continuing to make progress then this will be a place that players from around the world will look to to continue their careers.'

The financial package which lured Beckham from Real Madrid to Galaxy was far in excess of the MLS salary cap, which allows each club to pay one player over the agreed figure.

However, Garber, who confirmed there is no get-out clause in the former Manchester United star's contract, is certain the move makes economic sense both for Galaxy and the league in general.

He said: 'Right now, each of our teams has the ability to sign a player outside of that cap - and those caps, by the way, exist in all pro sports leagues in the US.

'Ours obviously is many, many, many millions of dollars lower than the NBA's and the NHL's and the national football leagues' - and by the way, it probably would not be the worst idea to have a salary cap in some other soccer leagues around the world.

'This economically has to make sense for the Galaxy. I think it will make sense and if it does then I think you will start seeing more teams looking at what we call `designated players'.

'If the fans come out and the sponsors come out then I could see us spending more money overall on players.'