The 'Beckham effect' is working as football crowds grow in the US
12:10 GMT, 31 October 2012
When David Beckham moved to the MLS from Real Madrid, it was said he had only gone for the money and how he had 'sold out'. But the Americans knew they were onto a good thing and believed that 'Brand Beckham' would help them finally grow 'soccer' domestically.
That was in 2007. Most others had failed, even in the days of Pele, Beckenbauer, Best and the razzamatazz of the North American Soccer League, which eventually crashed and burned after a bright start.
It may have lasted from 1968 to 1984 and gates for the New York Cosmos regularly topped 40,000, but it wasn't taken seriously and was seen by many as a retirement home for some of the world's best players – a final chance to earn a few quid.
The same was said about Beckham when he joined LA Galaxy. But the Americans are beginning to see the effect of signing players like the former England captain, ex-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry and Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane.
Having a ball: Beckham and LA Galaxy team-mate Robbie Keane drop in to watch the LA Lakers against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA
While once there was only one game of football in America and it was the gridiron kind, that's no longer the case. With NBC winning the rights to show Barclays Premier League football next season, its seems the popularity of football is on the increase.
While the growth has been slow, attendance figures revealed by FIFA show the MLS is now the seventh highest average attendance in world football.
LA Galaxy midfielder Beckham, the highest paid player in the MLS, has done his bit.
Average attendances grew to 18,807 during their 'regular' season and while that is less than Wigan's home gate for their 2-1 win against West Ham (the smallest weekend gate in the Barclays Premier League) and less than Cardiff, Leeds and Leicester attracted in The Championship in their most recent home games, it is an increase of almost 1,000 supporters on last season.
MLS fans cover David Beckham as he is about to take a corner against Toronto
Stream on: Beckham looks to be searching for the ball in Toronto their fans shower him with streamers
More than six million supporters watched matches in 2012 – the first time the MLS has reached beyond the six million mark since its inception in 1996.
The highest average was for the Seattle Sounders, for the fourth successive campaign, with a record-breaking 43,144.
Beckham, who won the 2011 MLS Cup, with The Galaxy has had a successful career with Manchester United and Real Madrid. he signed a new two year contract to stay in America when he was recently courted by Paris St Germain.
Pele (New York Cosmos, left) and George Best of the LA Aztecs were good friends and rivals in the North American Soccer League.
He will be able to watch more English football soon too.
NBC have explained the thinking
behind their three year contract. John Miller, the NBC Sports President
of programming said: “I have a 23-year-old and a 27-year-old son and I
have a lot of friends who have sons and daughters of the same age – they
have all become Chelsea fans, Arsenal fans, Manchester United fans,
'Even though there's just a handful of Americans playing on those teams, they are appealing.' NBC also screen MLS football.
Pele was the darling of the New York Cosmos in the 70's, but the league petered out
THE AMERICANS ARE CATCHING UP (BUT STILL HAVE A BIT TO DO)
Average attendance 2012
Major League Soccer