Saturday, 29 November 2008

MLS Final Need Beckham : But He Not Founded !

On the biggest day of the year in Major League Soccer, in one of the few occasions when the league gets national TV coverage for the grand finale of the season, there was a curious absence at the event this past Sunday. The man pegged by no other than himself as the ambassador of MLS was nowhere to be found.

USA Special: Beckham, Where Are You?
It wasn't as if it would have cost him much effort to appear, either. David Beckham now lives near the stadium where the MLS final was held and drives to practice there on almost a daily basis.

Granted, Beckham's team, the Los Angeles Galaxy, wasn't playing in the final match. New York and Columbus were. But the game has traditionally been a showcase for the all the icons of the league to come together and present a united front of support and belief in the game's progress.

It's especially important for those within MLS to behave as if they support the league for two reasons.
1. Many are skeptical that the sport will ever catch on in the United States.
2. It's hard to convince anyone that MLS is worth their while if it doesn't appear to be that way for those involved in with the league, either.

Now, any competitive person can understand the sting of watching two outside teams battle for the biggest prize on one's home field. It's Beckham's prerogative to attend a Ricky Hatton fight in Vegas instead. However, to not tape any interviews, or do any press or features leading up to the big event definitely seems like a snub.

It's not the only one, either. Fellow Galaxy star Landon Donovan isn't the publicity magnet Beckham is, but a recent trial stint with Bayern Munich has raised his profile considerably. Though he made a very brief appearance at an MLS awards gala before the final game, he was otherwise MIA.

What's notable about Donovan spurning the MLS final is that, even more than Beckham, Donovan had long presented himself as a player who was personally invested in helping American soccer and the domestic league succeed. In part, Donovan did that by insisting that he didn't need to go abroad to improve as a player.

Now that he has changed his mind about that, why bother with being a good soldier in the MLS publicity battle?

It could be, however, that both Donovan and Beckham share something other than their mutual absence for the MLS Final and their shared failure to get the Galaxy to the playoffs. Beckham has just secured a loan deal to AC Milan and the club would like to extend his stay. Meanwhile, Donovan has a loan offer pending from Bayern Munich, and that club has indicated they would also like to acquire his services.

Big-name European interest could mean farewell to MLS, especially since the league has been caught flatfooted on both deals. Though the organization holds the players' contracts, news broke abroad of talks between the borrowing teams and agents long before the league would admit to having even been contacted.

If players and their agents aren't treating MLS with enough respect to keep the league in loop of things like loan deals, it doesn't bode well for the future.

On the other hand, if players feel they've outgrown the league or are too big for it, MLS should jettison all the baggage that comes with that.

The MLS final should have belonged to one star - season and game MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto. That Donovan and Beckham were conspicuous by their absence should not overshadow a well-played game that was one of the better finals in league history.

MLS is treated by plenty of people around the world like it isn't good enough. It's better to focus on the players who don't feel that way, then to spend time convincing those that do otherwise.

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