David Beckham is about to play his final MLS match on Saturday (4:30 pm ET on ESPN, TeleFutura, TSN/RDS in Canada), but the league will survive and thrive, according to MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
"I don't believe we’re going to be hurting when David leaves," Garber said on Monday in a media teleconference call. "I’m not saying this as commissioner's spin. David got us to a point and we’re going to take it higher and not look back."
Garber hailed Beckham's MLS career and how he "overdelivered on every measure" during his six seasons. The MLS commissioner pointed out how the English star was not only able to bring on-field success to the Galaxy, but he also took MLS global, leading to other high-profile international signings.
"There’s arguably not a soccer fan on this planet who doesn’t know the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and David played a significant role in helping us make that happen," Garber said. "We needed David Beckham in 2007 to help drive our credibility, to help grow our popularity," Garber continued. "We don’t need anything today to get us to the next level. It’s a wide variety of initiatives."
While already looking ahead to the next high-profile superstar – "probably one of the great players playing in Europe today … I have no doubt that player will come, no doubt whatsoever" – Garber looks forward to Beckham's involvement as a future MLS owner.
And the commissioner confirmed that Beckham's contractual option to own an MLS expansion team at a discounted rate does not necessarily limit him to expansion markets. The recent rumors of Beckham's potential involvement in the LA Galaxy ownership structure is a possibility.
"Anything’s a possibility other than his right to exercise that option in New York," Garber said on Monday's call. "So there is a possibility for him to work with league office to find ways to transfer that option into an opportunity in LA. It's way too premature to talk about that or even speculate about what that would look like. But that opportunity does exist if it meets the approval of the league … David holds the option and the LA Galaxy would have to be part of that discussion."
While Beckham has made his decision official, his teammate and captain Landon Donovan could also be playing his final match in the league as he ponders whether to continue his career during the upcoming offseason.
Garber says he hopes to meet with US national team's all-time leading scorer and a player he calls "arguably the best player in US soccer history."
"He started as a teenager and he spent his entire life committed to the sport, and I sympathize with what he is experiencing in trying to soul-search and trying to figure out what his future might hold on and off the field," Garber said. "Landon not only has to be a great player, but Landon also carried a lot of the promotional burden of promoting the sport for a decade or more on his shoulders. He played during the day and had to promote it at night, and that’s tiring.
"I hope he can continue to help grow the league and the sport here and I want to do everything I can personally to help him figure out a right way to be able to do that."