Beckhams for Everybody?

The Washington Times discusses MLS’s proposed "Beckham Rule" today. Nothing really new, except for a clarification. If you’re not familiar, the Beckham Rule is meant to allow MLS teams to pay a player outside of the communist confines of the $1.6M salary cap (btw, wasn’t it closer to $2M?). Now, we all know that a lot of players have made more than the league maximum salary (somewhere in the mid $200K), but until now those wages have come from the league’s own money. The Beckham Rule would let team owners spend their own cash on players. Supposedly, New York wants to bring Ronaldo using such a rule.

"You’ve got hard-core European soccer fans that are watching games on
Fox Soccer Channel and are going to Manchester United and AC Milan
games in New York, but aren’t coming to Red Bull games," said Garber
this week on a visit to RFK Stadium. "We need to have a higher quality
of play, and perhaps in certain markets a star player will help us get

As long as owners are spending their own money, I’m all for this. You might think this will put team’s owned by multiple owners (DC, Chicago) or stingy owners (Columbus, New England) at a disadvantage. But the history of high-profile foreign signings shows that it’s nigh impossible for a single foreign player to draw in fans and turn a team around (see Luis Hernandez, LA Galaxy or Lothar Mattheus, NY Metrostars, among others. Plus, a team can’t depend on a single player to be competitive (see Landon Donovan, LA Galazy or Marco Etchevery, DC United 2001-2003).

I don’t expect this to have an immediate or long-term effect on the quality of play in the league. To do that the league needs to maintain the development league and expand rosters so that all players improve. I do think that some players will benefit from training with such star players, much like Beasley benefited while Hristo Stoichkov was at the Chicago Fire.  In the end, this is more about bringing in more recognized players to
hopefully get more exposure in the media, make televised games more
attractive to fans in non-MLS cities, and appeal to eurosnobs.