David Beckham might not have opened the door for big-name players to join Major League Soccer, but he got the party started.
Beckham was the league’s first imported Designated Player, joining the Los Angeles Galaxy shortly after the rule allowing teams one player’s income to not count against the salary cap.
In his fourth year in MLS, there has been an influx of DPs as the likes of Thierry Henry, Rafa Márquez and Blaise Nkufo and others have joined Beckham in the league.
Is there a negative to all this influx of talent?
“I heard someone say the other day that it’s a bad thing for European players are coming over, give the young lads a chance,” Beckham said this week. “When I was a young kid at Manchester United, I was playing with players like Eric Cantona who had come over to England to play. You learn from these players, and it’s going to make the league grow, it’s going to make the sport grow in this country and it can only be a good thing.”
Being able to draw the likes of former Champions League winners, former club champions in England and Spain, and World Cup standouts is a sign of a strong league, a league that such players have a desire to join.
“That’s what we hoped for when the league started up, that you continue to have that progress and that’s gone on each year,” Beckham said. “It’s continued to get bigger, it’s continued to grow. More franchises are coming into the league and the league is in a healthy state at the moment.”
On Saturday, the Galaxy will visit New York and will play against the first club to take advantage of the new DP rules. By bringing in Henry and Márquez to play alongside Juan Pablo Angel, New York became the first club in league history to field three DPs. With a stable of talent, New York has suddenly vaulted in prestige and have seemingly elbowed their way into the group of clubs with serious title contenders.
So illustrious is the LA-New York matchup—the game at Red Bull Arena sold out more than two weeks ago—Beckham is going to be there in person despite not having the chance to play.
“Tim Leiweke asked me to travel over there because it’s obviously it’s a big game for the guys, it’s an important game and also it’s a big game for the league with Thierry and Marquez and obviously one of the best franchises is LA and another one is New York. Tim wanted me to go and support the guys and that’s all I’m doing.”
Still, knowing he will not participate won’t take the sting away from having to sit the Galaxy match out.
“I’m disappointed. This game, the new stadium, I’ve never played there,” Beckham said. “Thierry being there, Marquez being there, it’s a nice game to be involved in. I’ll be there but unfortunately I won’t be able to play."