Beckham Done, Miami Undone
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Sunday, 08 March 2009 11:08

So the deal is done.

Beckham gets to stay in Milan for a while, Galaxy fans get a 10 percent discount on their tickets, and AC Milan is getting a trip to LA this summer.

It's perhaps a bit ironic to call Milan's July 19 appearance at the Home Depot Center "David Beckham's Homecoming", since normally "home" implies someplace you really want to be, but perhaps that's a bit churlish of me. It's not Los Angeles he dislikes, just their soccer team.

In any case, TIM LEIWEKE IS SAYING that the problem all along was getting Milan to understand that it wasn't Beckham Inc. calling all the shots here. Of course, it's also true that they were calling the shots in LA for a while (what else do you call it when a player's management team gets to name the head coach?), but those heady days are long gone.

Over the next few days there'll be a lot of talk about who won and who lost in all of this and you can make a good case for just about everyone involved in this overlong soap opera being both or neither or someplace in between.

It seems to me though that when the dust settles. it's Beckham who's the biggest loser here. He came to LA as a larger-than-life superstar athlete with a spotless reputation and the world at his feet.

Now, a mere two years later, he's been shown to be just another selfish professional athlete who bails on his word when things get a little tough.

We were told, and we wanted to believe, that Beckham was something different, something special. But if this whole sordid affair has shown us anything it's surely that his feet, however talented they may be, are made of clay. In the end, that's a stiff price to pay for a couple more months in Milan.

As for whether this hurts Major League Soccer, I'm reminded of an old Tin Pan Alley ditty that said "Got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now".

Anybody else recall the reported clause in Beckham's contract that supposedly gave him the right to buy an MLS team when he was done playing?

And that the city he supposedly wanted was Miami?

You think maybe that's not going to happen now? Just wondering.

A Seattle TV station is reporting that Seattle will host MLS Cup 2009. I'm certain it will be a smashing success, but personally I'd rather see the league keep the game in warmer climes: LA, Dallas, or Miami.

Whoops. Sorry. Scratch that last one.

Nobody comes out of the Miami debacle SMELLING LIKE A ROSE, but at the end of the day it seems that when you get past acknowledging the ITTET explanation and Barcelona's puzzling case of cold feet (considering the seemingly small risk to them). What it apparently came down to was that nobody involved had much faith in the Miami market.

The website they set up so that people could plunk down season ticket deposits as a demonstration of fan commitment and enthusiasm turned instead into an embarrassment when precious few fans ponied up.

Closer to our hearts here on BigSoccer, Don Garber mentions the paucity of "internet buzz" amongst prospective fans as further evidence that the support just wasn't there. Call it "internet forum based market research" and send them a bill.

I'm not in a position to judge whether any of that has merit. We have, of course, many examples of how a supposedly "soccer crazy" locale doesn't necessarily mean that the MLS turnstiles will spin like tops, but until you open the gates on Day One you really can't know for sure.

Seattle, for example, is selling tickets by the bushel up there, and good on them. But if they had done that 14 years ago when the league conducted their season ticket campaign as a way of determining who would get a team, they'd be well into their second decade in the league. Smallish, unfashionable Columbus sold 10,000, which is how they got in. Seattle wasn't heard from.

The question is: what if anything changed there—soccerwise—since 1996, when you didn't need an owner or a soccer stadium (well, OK, Seattle still doesn't have the latter), just some season ticket deposits?

And while it's true that support for USL1 teams isn't much of a predictor either, Miami FC's goal of selling 5,000 season tickets by this weekend to save the team has fallen a little short as well: 4,000 seats short.

So not only have they lost out on MLS, it's looking increasingly likely that they aren't going to have any professional soccer at all down there.

This of course again raises the question of the future of USL1 as, having lost Toronto and Seattle, and being poised to lose Vancouver and/or Portland, and with Miami looking like a very dead horse, and Atlanta in limbo (they've suspended operations and are supposedly taking a look "at the soccer landscape"), they're quickly running out of cities.

Now it's easy to understand why ITTET would be reluctant to plunk down $40 million to start an MLS team, but last I knew a USL1 franchise ran $500k (and that was a while ago; it's probably higher now). Would you be willing to send that check to Frank Marcos and try to get a USL1 team up and running right now? Would anyone?

I mean, forget logic and common sense; how are you going to break it to your wife who's been watching your portfolio shrink by the hour that you just dropped half a million on a soccer team in a failing league in a minor sport with a dismal track record?

Hope that couch is comfy.

Forget throwing money away propping up badly run banks and unprofitable auto makers; we may need to start a campaign to get Washington to bail out USL1. It's really tough to envision how they're going to make it without some kind of outside help.

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3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."