MLS chief hails 'fantastic' impact of Beckham
David Beckham delivered 'in every measure' according to Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, despite appearing in only five games in his first season in the United States.
Garber hailed Beckham during his State of the League address in Washington on today, insisting the former England captain had been a fabulous addition to the league despite the injuries that prevented him from playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy in all but five games.
'The signing of David Beckham delivered on our expectations in every measure,' Garber said. 'The exposure we got because of David Beckham, regardless of how many games he played, was fantastic.'
Beckham arrived in LA in July already carrying an ankle injury which he then aggravated. When he finally got over it, he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of all but the final two games of the season.
Beckham's absence deflated the huge sense of anticipation about his arrival, but Garber is confident the buzz will return when a healthy Beckham takes to the field in 2008.
'He can have his freshman year in his sophomore year,' Garber said. 'The way we look at it, we're going to have the first year all over again and maybe that's a good thing.'
Garber also pointed to the impact Beckham had been able to make off the field, despite his injuries.
'He is an absolute gentlemen,' Garber said. 'Everything we asked David to do, he did.'
Garber cited the record-breaking attendance which broke the three million mark for the first time, as well as ESPN ratings that climbed 25%, as evidence that the league was more popular than ever with Beckham and other star signings like Cuauhtemoc Blano and Juan Pablo Angel on board.
There is also evidence of the new gravitas enjoyed by MLS in the guest list at the event hotel for this weekend's MLS Cup final.
Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, ex-Arsenal vice chairman David Dein and Bundesliga chief Werner Hackmann have all been in attendance in Washington this week to talk to MLS officials.
'The fire and the light from those signings has made a lot of people interested in MLS that wouldn't have been interested before,' MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidas said.
'Mourinho is here because he's intrigued by the MLS, he really wants to learn more about it. I can't tell you that he wouldn't be here without David Beckham, but my guess is maybe he wouldn't.'