The Lead

It’s hard to gauge what exactly the promise of David Beckham was when he arrived to play with the LA Galaxy in 2007, whether to boost attendances in weaker markets, provide leverage for increased television demand as Pele did for NASL when arrived to play for the New York Cosmos in 1975, improve MLS’ global profile to attract similar stars, or all of the above.

There will be a lot of anguished soul-searching in the usual corners about MLS’ identity in the coming off-season, either among its would-be supporters who don’t go to the trouble of adding it to their weekend soccer viewing schedules, or those who pack its stadium in impressive numbers every week. There will also be some “good riddances” to be had; most would agree that even with injuries, Beckham’s heart wasn’t in it until his last two years. He clearly thought MLS was a bit shit (loans to AC Milan), and then changed his mind.

In the end Beckham—who announced he would be leaving the Galaxy after the final for “one more adventure” or something, which several speculate could mean either China, Australia or Brazil—may go down as the guy who simply got MLS’ foot in the door, both for the much-coveted TV rights, and to give MLS credibility among other aging erstwhile stars.

But the hope, if it ever existed, that Beckham would drive numbers whether in attendance or TV was clearly misguided. Beckham was not the reason for MLS opening up in soccer-friendly markets with vibrant supporter cultures, roughly around the time he first arrived. Nor was he the reason MLS had the impossible job of competing for TV eyeballs with leagues like the Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A.

With professional sports still living and dying largely on TV rights revenues, Major League Soccer will still have to earn its place in the North American professional sports pecking order the hard way—selling the game to American viewers who aren’t already interested in the Premier League, and therefore have surfeit television interest to invest. Perhaps there is the foreign star who can one day break the wall—a Lionel Messi with one or two good years, for example.

But for now the league will have to be content with its considerable gifts, and plan its next move in the absence of Goldenballs, who won’t be there to kick around anymore.

Canada

Canada will face Denmark in friendly early next year.

England

City on the brink of elimination but Mancini confident his team can win.

Di Matteo may drop Torres and play Sturridge up front instead.

Walcott ruled out of the line-up vs Montpellier because of a shoulder injury.

United midfielder Shinji Kagawa out for another month.

Italy

Bendtner plans to impress Juventus and lead them to victory against Chelsea.

Inter’s Cassano banned for two games.

James Horncastle captures Arturo Vidal’s spirit as a player.

La Liga

Fernando Llorente explains why he failed to appear at press conference.

Tim Stannard gives us a preview of all the Spanish sides ahead of today’s Champions League matches.

Jose Mourinho will reach 100 games in prestigious club competition.

Germany

Bayern’s Luiz Gustavo out indefinitely after groin surgery.

Police report shows violence on the rise among soccer crowds and in stadiums.

Augsburg president silences Magath rumours.

Bundesliga Fanatic Podcast with all the match previews ahead of today’s games.

MLS

Where will Beckham venture to now that he’s leaving LA Galaxy?

U.S. Soccer Federation voted Clint Dempsey as best male athlete of the year.

Bit and Bobs

Ashley Young receives a prank call from a Galatasary fan ahead of today’s Champions League match.

‘Welcome to Hell‘: United vs Galatasaray in 1993.

“You cannot eradicate racism by a handshake.”-Sepp Blatter a year after initially making a comment saying you can.

Survey reveals managers and coaches worldwide support technology and seek clarification on handball rule.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.