MLS Attendance at an All-Time High: Is David Beckham to Thank?

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MLS Attendance at an All-Time High: Is David Beckham to Thank?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

When David Beckham arrived in Hollywood just four years ago, he brought a few promises along with his Louis Vuitton luggage and his wife, Posh Spice. One was to make soccer more popular in the United States, another was to help the financial situation of Major League Soccer and his third was to bring titles to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

It is no secret that the "World's Favorite Game" has seen a tremendous increase in interest throughout the entire United States and will have continued growth with the acquisitions and on-field success of high-profile players. While one can say that Beckham did not single-handedly make the MLS what it is today, one can argue that he was indeed the pioneer.

Major League Soccer is now the third-most attended professional sport in the United States behind the NFL and MLB.

Wait a tick—soccer is the third most attended sport per game in the United States? Of America? Seriously?

According to examiner.com, MLS attendance has gone up 6.6 percent this season alone without the extensive media coverage and internet hype in other professional sports such as basketball and hockey.

Is Beckham to thank for MLS growth?

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MLS games in 2011 averaged 17,870 fans per game in contrast to last year's 16,675 per game. The improvement in attendance has propelled the MLS to the third-most attended sport in the United States, placing it in front of the NBA (17,319 average) and the NHL (17,126).

The most popularly attended professional sport in the United Sates is the NFL, which has an average of 66,950 attendees per game, and the MLB sits comfortably at the No. 2 spot with an average attendance of 30,352.

An even more impressive statistic is the MLS on the international scale compared to other leagues across the world. The top professional league in the United States, one of the few countries that calls the sport "soccer" instead of "football," is ranked 10th in the world in average attendance per game, ahead of domestic leagues such as Brazil's Serie A and the Scottish Premier League.

Beckham's First Goal in the MLS

Now the real question is, who deserves credit for this? Although at this point it may seem cliche, you cannot hide the fact that David Beckham deserves a little bit of credit. Although many exaggerated and said he could single-handedly make soccer the most popular sport in America, he was the kick start and guiding light to the other teams making big signings for their teams.

Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Torsten Frings and Omar Bravo were some of the bigger names to follow David Beckham into MLS. That's not to mention his teammate Robbie Keane, who signed with the Galaxy this season, and American soccer legend Landon Donovan, who extended his MLS contract when he could have easily left to play abroad.

In truth, the teams deserve most of the credit for the growth for installing new, beautiful stadiums and putting together solid rosters. It is no surprise that American soccer is now being respected more than ever and shows no signs of slowing down.

Talk of bringing of players such as Alessandro Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and Ruud van Nistelrooy to MLS can only add to the already excitement. More soccer-specific stadiums and state-of-the-art clubhouses can only add to the prestige of the league.

Being a part of the New York Red Bulls staff and holding a credential for the entire 2011 season, I have seen firsthand the hype that not only David Beckham but the LA Galaxy as a team bring to the area. The arena is electrified and the neighborhoods are buzzing about having the former Manchester United and Real Madrid superstar on the pitch.

With Beckham's future with the Galaxy uncertain and other offers likely to be on the table at the end of the season, his decision could be decided by whether he attains his third and most difficult goal by taking home an MLS Cup. Los Angeles will face Houston Dynamo for the MLS Cup on November 20th in the Home Depot Center, which happens to be their home field.

Forza MLS!

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