- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

David Beckham has landed in America to lift professional soccer out of its niche existence.

His will be no easy undertaking in a nation that already has a full sports menu.

Soccer is one of America’s leading participatory sports. Yet those figures do not become loyal spectators of Major League Soccer years after they have taken their last corner kick.

That remains the conundrum before professional soccer and now Beckham, the 32-year-old international celebrity who is seeking to win more than a few converts to the game.

It is not that Americans are uneducated or unsophisticated about the nuances of the game.

That is an old criticism that fails to acknowledge the robust health of soccer at the youth and high school levels in the United States. It is not that Americans don’t get it. It is just that all too many choose to spend their viewing dollars on football, basketball or baseball.

Beckham received a rousing introduction from the Los Angeles Galaxy on Friday, when the obligatory plaudits were dispensed and the swooning began in earnest from the 5,000 in attendance.

Beckham may not be the game’s savior in America. But he said he hopes to be the impetus that stokes the flames of interest.

He acknowledged the hold football and baseball have on America and conceded that he will not change that.

But he said, “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could make a difference.”

The league can expect to receive an initial burst of interest because of Beckham. That much is certain. The long-term effect is another question, dependent in part on whether the national press plays along.

His personal life may come to be more intriguing than his play as a midfielder, if America’s insatiable obsession with celebrities is any indication.

Beckham and his wife, Victoria, otherwise known as Posh Spice of the Spice Girls, count Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes as two of their dearest friends.

Coincidentally or not, the Beckhams have taken up residence in the nation’s entertainment capital, where star power is the key that opens all doors.

Beckham insists he has come to Los Angeles to do his part with the Galaxy and show that he can be one of the guys.

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