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July 20, 2007

Beckham in the States: From the Cosmos to the Galaxy

By: Jamie Gavin

Hello, my name is Jamie Gavin, and I am the newest member of the comScore marketing and communications team based in our London office. As an Englishman, I am obviously a MASSIVE football (no, NOT soccer!) fan, and what better time to make the trip across the Atlantic than on the tailcoats of one of the greatest Englishmen to ever play the game. David Beckham, or ‘Bex’ as we call him on the other side of the pond, has just signed a deal reported to be worth over $250 million with US “soccer” team LA Galaxy, and for what it’s worth, here are my two cents.

In 2005, the Guardian ran an excerpt entitled “When Pele and Cosmos were Kings" from Gavin Newsham’s book Once in a Lifetime. It told the story of everything from the media frenzy surrounding Pele's arrival, to the meteoric rise of the sport in America, and eventually to Pele’s final game for the club. Apparently as the game progressed, the heavens opened, drenching the entire 75,000 congregation. The next day a Brazilian newspaper ran the headline: "Even the Sky Was Crying."

But now the US has a new football hero – a modern hero – who is proving just as popular on the Internet as he ever was on the football field. According to comScore data, when Beckham announced in January that he would be signing for the LA Galaxy club, worldwide traffic to the Major League Soccer website increased by over 250%. The number of unique visitors to the site in January 2007 reached 808,000, up from 230,000 in December 2006.

Exactly half of this traffic came from within the United States, with the number of unique visitors from the U.S. in January increasing to 404,000 from 159,000 the previous month. As a new year began, American eyes were undoubtedly on David Beckham.

As a youngster growing up in England I was always fascinated by the similarities between Pele and David Beckham. The Brazilian had been immortalised to me as the man who had almost scored from the halfway line in the 1970 World Cup, but Beckham…well…he actually achieved it.

On Saturday night – injuries permitting – he will find himself stepping out into the great man’s shoes once again when he plays his first game for his new US club, LA Galaxy. The question now is, can he finally step out of his shadow and succeed where Pele could not? Can Beckham lift football to a position of permanent prominence in America?

One thing is for certain, the man who captained his country 58 times and single-handedly led them to the quarter finals of the last World Cup will be sorely missed. I checked in at home – the week before Beckham was due to be unveiled by the Galaxy it rained so much in England that half the country flooded – even the sky was crying!

Tags: Sports