Soccer superstar David Beckham’s U.S. debut is expected to spark a dramatic increase in the popularity of the U.S. soccer scene, driving up team franchise expansion fees by at least $20 million, says author Zimbalist.
The media firestorm ignited by the Los Angeles arrival of David Beckham and his popstar wife Victoria (better known as Posh from the Spice Girls) was a preview of the impact the high-profile Beckham will have on the American soccer world, hopefully bringing it up to international standards. Andrew Zimbalist, coauthor of National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer, told the LA Times that due to Beckham’s international popularity and a “growing interest” in Major League Soccer, it might be “conservative” to assume in the near future individual U.S. team franchise expansion fees could be near $30 million, a 300 percent increase over the $10 million price tag from pre-Beckham days.
Beckham’s first season, beginning with his debut game on July 21st (assuming he is not sidelined due to ankle injuries), will be a litmus test for his overall impact on the American soccer world. Judging by the near doubling of Los Angeles Galaxy ticket revenue in the past few months, soccer in the States is about to experience a level of popularity rarely seen here but common abroad. This draws into sharper relief the difference in world views of leisure time: why does everybody else in the world obsess over soccer while baseball is as American as apple pie? Andrew Zimbalist and coauthor Stefan Szymanski elaborate on this contrast in National Pastime, which not only explores the cultural differences that led to this split, but also the economic factors that enable baseball to be so profitable within the United States alone, while the world soccer industry, though immensely popular, struggles to “break even.”
(Photo of David Beckham courtesy of the LA Galaxy)