23 Days 'til MLS: Can any DP ever replace David Beckham?
As the MLS season approaches, MLSsoccer.com marks each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for March 2.
23 – David Beckham's iconic LA Galaxy number
It seems so long ago now, when David Beckham took on his new jersey number upon arrival at Real Madrid. He was paying tribute to Michael Jordan and perhaps – in retrospect – showing just a flash of the Amerophilia that would later help draw him to the United States.
Or maybe it was just that his preferred No. 7 was already being worn by merengues legend Raúl. Either way, it worked.
Becks took that No. 23 with him to Los Angeles and made it his MLS calling card, of course, and it will live on long after his picturesque departure thanks to those six-plus years of superhuman jersey sales figures. Pressed onto the Galaxy's gleaming white home kit, the digits drew billions of eyes to a young and growing league and aligned it with one of the strongest personal brands in human history.
While his actual game didn't prove quite as dominant on the field as some expected, he and his club figured things out eventually, in storybook fashion, no less. And the league now faces the unenviable task of replacing the star power, the elusive cool, the jet-set je ne sais quoi of Goldenballs and all he represents.
Or maybe not. Who knows if any Designated Player signing will ever make the seismic global impact that Galaxy boss Tim Leiweke's stunning 2007 capture did? Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry certainly came close – and he could yet become a championship hero and club icon himself. And both men may have fundamentally changed the equation just by arriving on these shores, and making MLS an acceptable destination for megastars.
Perhaps the whole model has changed even more fundamentally, and "young DPs" like new D.C. United striker Rafael are the standard-bearers of the future. Club and league bean counters would certainly rather sell stars to Europe than buy them from there.
Casual fans, whose fickle attention prompted MLS observers to begin employing the term "moving the needle," don't quite get that concept yet. But maybe their growing sophistication about the world player market will someday prove to be DB23's most useful American legacy.
Does MLS really need to replace David Beckham? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!