On the afternoon of July 21, 2007, the center of the sports world was the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Executives from Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the owner of Major League Soccer’s (MLS’s) Los Angeles Galaxy, paced around their suite in anticipation.
Their view showed a sold-out stadium, one bustling with twenty-seven thousand fans, including numerous celebrities such as Eva Longoria, Katie Holmes, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who entered the stadium via red carpet, reminiscent of a Hollywood movie premier. On the field a slew of ESPN television cameras prepared to broadcast what would turn out to be the highest-rated MLS game in the history of the network—despite it being an exhibition match between the Galaxy and perennial English Premier League power Chelsea.1 All of this because David Beckham represented the future for an eleven-year old sports league that desperately wanted to elevate its stature. Months earlier, the British soccer sensation had agreed to a monumental fiveyear contract with the Galaxy, which could pay him up to $250 million, including endorsements.
For weeks, ESPN had run advertisements comparing Beckham’s arrival in the U.S. to that of the Beatles coming to America. Understandably, most of those in attendance didn’t just come to watch a soccer game; rather, they were in attendance to be part of a spectacle, an event that was as much about entertainment as it was about soccer. They were there to get a glimpse of Beckham, the global brand who was sitting on the bench with a badly sprained ankle.
Despite the injury, Beckham had to play—there was simply too much riding on his premier to have it any other way. Much to the delight of all those associated with soccer in the U.S., he took the field in the seventy-eighth minute and played for the balance of the Galaxy’s 1-0 loss.