(Thursday, January 11, 2006) -- David Beckham, a soccer legend both on and off the field, will join Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy when the Spanish season ends in August.
The midfielder and former England captain has had a frustrating season with Real Madrid, having started only five of 17 Primera Division matches. He had been a starter with Real until the arrival of Italian coach Fabio Capello from AC Milan for this season.
"David Beckham will have a greater impact on soccer in America than any athlete has ever had on a sport globally," Timothy J. Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owner-operator of the Galaxy, told Associated Press. "David is truly the only individual that can build the bridge between soccer in America and the rest of the world."
Speculation had been rampant in recent weeks about the future of Beckham, one of the world's most visible personalities, whose contract in Spain expires at the end of the season.
"This week Real Madrid asked me to make a decision regarding my future and the offer to extend my contract for a further two seasons," Beckham told Reuters. "After discussing several options with my family and my advisors to either stay here in Madrid or join other major British and European teams I have decided to join L.A. Galaxy and play in the MLS from August this year.
"I would like to thank supporters and the people of Madrid who have made my family and I so welcome in my time here, making this an extremely difficult decision to make. I have enjoyed my time here enormously and I am extremely grateful to the club for giving me an opportunity to play for such a great team and their amazing fans."
Beckham, who is 31, joined Real from Manchester United in June 2003, going from one of the world's most visible clubs to another. He will join the Galaxy in the middle of the MLS regular season, which runs from April to October.
"I am proud to have played for two of the biggest clubs in football and I look forward to the new challenge of growing the world's most popular game in a country that is as passionate about its sport as my own," Beckhamm said in a prepared statement.
Reuters reported the Beckham stands to earn $250 million over the five years of the deal, with most of it presumably coming from marketing.
Beckham becomes the first player to be brought into the league under its new so-called "Beckham Rule," which was established to attract big-name players to the American league, heading into its 12th season. MLS, which operates under a single-entity system in which the league holds all player contracts, operates under an approximate $2.1 million salary cap with numerous exceptions. The Beckham rule allows teams to acquire one player who can be paid as much as a team wishes, with him counting $400,000 against the cap and the club paying the rest from its own revenue.
A team can acquire a second "Beckham" player in trade from another team with the league paying the first $325,000 and that amount being counting against the cap.
Los Angeles already has MLS's second highest-paid player in Landon Donovan, who is paid $950,000 annually, but counts approximately $300,000 against the cap. At the time the Beckham rule was passed, the league granted a one-year grace period for players who were being paid more that the official cap maximum. After that, these players will fall under the auspices of the Beckham rule.
Beckham has a soccer academy in Los Angeles, as well as in London. His wife Victoria, a member of the former pop group, the Spice Girls, was recently photographed house-hunting in L.A.
This has been a big week for AEG which sold the rights to D.C. United for $33 million after running the club for five years. AEG still has three MLS clubs in its stable -- Los Angeles, the Chicago Fire and league champion Houston Dynamo.