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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, March 24, 2023
Jonah Beleckis

Column: MLS in Miami needs to strengthen youth development under Beckham

Like he is quite accustomed to, David Beckham entered with fans chanting his name to the stage that was overlooking the calm water, still trees and an 80-degree Miami morning.

Beckham, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced at a press conference Wednesday morning that Beckham is exercising his option to purchase an MLS expansion team in Miami.

"Wednesday's news conference was as much pep rally as an announcement," said Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated in a story about Beckham's big announcement.

The "pep rally" atmosphere is quite emblematic of what David Beckham will bring to MLS.

Being an icon of the sport, the former English international has played for the world's biggest brand-name clubs in England, Spain, Italy, France and the United States.

For someone who has been on top of the world's sporting stages, Beckham also showcased all he had to offer—tattoos, underwear and all—in front of the largest television audience in American history (111.5 million according to Business Insider) during a Super Bowl advertisement.

The glitz, glamour and fame Beckham brings to MLS only does half of the job that is making America's league prominent in world soccer.

In 2015, New York City Football Club and Orlando City Soccer Club will begin play as MLS franchises. Beckham's Miami team—the league's 22nd—should play their first games in 2016. Getting more teams will result in more profit, but not necessarily a higher quality on the field.

If MLS is going to be remotely close to the top leagues in Europe, then they simply need to start at the bottom: development.

"Our goal for Major League Soccer is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world by 2022," Garber said. "We need to continue to invest in this sport at the bottom and make our clubs more influential and more and more important in the communities."

If the U.S. is going to reach Garber's lofty goals, America's development system will need to catch up to world level, something Beckham also emphasized.

"The one thing that I want to achieve more than anything, is I want to set up a great academy," Beckham said. "We want local football players that believe that they can reach the top and play in the MLS ... It's about nurturing talent. And that's going to be the difference in whether America are going to be a great team and going to have the chance to win a World Cup one day."

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If you bring in someone like Beckham, that will certainly increase revenue for the team. It will also do numbers for bringing in big name players, but those will probably be former world class players who are way past their prime.

Bringing in the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba or Xavier "Xavi" Hernández—who are all over 34 years old—may sell jerseys, but it will do very little with regard to making American-born players any closer to where Garber and Beckham strive for them to be.

If handled correctly, Beckham can use his development academy experience, more than his professional experience, to bring in youth players.

There is a major conflict for players in America, should they play for their high school, or should they give up their schooling to join academies and pursue their dreams by putting soccer as their first priority.

I do not mean to say more people need to drop out of school and join academies because in all honesty, the way things are structured many of them might not make it to the big leagues. The culture of youth training is so drastically different in Europe and that accounts for some discrepancies in player quality at the professional level.

Take Beckham for instance; he signed for Manchester United on his 14th birthday.

The debate of whether a young, up-and-coming player should choose to play in high school or an academy requires a completely separate conversation that is worth having. But I am pointing out that one cause for the gap in American and European development has to be the dedication and resources available to those at the early levels.

Beckham's commitment to youth development is essential for his tenure in Miami to be considered a success.

"The U.S. team the way they have improved in the last ten years has been incredible, and I've seen that," Beckham said. "But that has to continue. The only way that's going to continue is if we have good academies, we have good coaches, we have good young children coming through. That's what we aspire, that's what we want."

What does David Beckham's involvement mean for MLS? Let Jonah know what you think by emailing

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