Midfielder and former England captain David Beckham has announced that the MLS cup final on Dec. 1 will be his last match with the LA Galaxy.
The 37-year-old Beckham isn’t retiring, but the superstar he gave no hint of his next move.
”I’ve had an incredibly special time playing for the L.A. Galaxy,” Beckham said in a statement. ”However, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career. I don’t see this as the end of my relationship with the league, as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future.”
Beckham has played in Los Angeles for six seasons since his groundbreaking move from Real Madrid, reaching three league finals and winning one MLS title last year during his best stateside campaign.
He agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy in January after playing out his initial five-year deal, turning down potential moves to wealthy Paris Saint-Germain and other clubs – including at least one Premiership team, according to Beckham.
Beckham hadn’t given any overt indications he was planning to leave the Galaxy after this season with a year left on his deal. Last week, the longtime England captain pointedly denied rumors linking him to a short-term stint in Australia.
Beckham has been among the chief reasons to watch MLS action during his years in Los Angeles. At 37 he is not the player who dominated both the Premiere League and Spain’s La Liga, but he has remained one of the most consistently threatening players in the league. He has been plagued by injuries but his vision is as sharp as ever and his precision has only barely dimished. At just about any moment and from just about any position, Beckham can lob one of his trademark overhead passes to a forward for a one-touch shot or bend a free kick or corner into the net.
The question now is, where does Beckham go from LA? Rumors have him returning to Europe, going to South America or even Australia to play in that country’s A-League. One intriguing rumor has him remaining in the MLS, where he does have an interest in ownership eventually, and moving to New York to join the Red Bulls. The Red Bulls have one of the league’s highest salaries but have underachieved for years. In New York, Beckham would play alongside former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry, who is one of the finalists for MLS MVP this year. The Red Bulls were dumped out of the playoffs this year by DC United. Beckham could be the leader and threat that the Red Bulls have needed. A team featuring Henry’s guile and power and Beckham’s leadership and precision would be an instant threat for the title, provided both could stay healthy for enough of the season to lead the line. Beckham and Henry played for arch rivals Manchester United and the Gunners respectively during their time in the English Premiere League. Having both on the same side in the twilight of their careers could be expected to knock ticket sales up a bit for the Red Bulls and any team they play against on the road. It would be good for Red Bulls and for MLS itself.
Beckham has enjoyed two seasons with similar talent around him in Los Angeles, playing alongside US international Landon Donovan and Irish international Robbie Keane. The Galaxy reached this year’s MLS Cup final by beating Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders 3-0 in the first leg at home and losing 2-1 in the second at Seattle on Sunday. They will host the Houston Dynamo in a rematch of last season’s final, which the Galaxy won 1-0.
During Beckham’s years in Major League Soccer, MLS has gone from relative obscurity to become the world’s seventh most watch soccer league.