He's Baaaack: Is This David Beckham's Last Stand In The U.S.?

July 12, 2009: In what is shaping up to be either a captivating or interminable situation, depending on your point of view, David Beckham has returned to the U.S. and this week will practice with his team, the Los Angeles Galaxy, before embarking on what could be his farewell stint with Major League Soccer. Beckham, the international soccer star whose glow has diminished in America since he joined the Galaxy to great fanfare in 2007, had been on loan to AC Milan this season. Now, after a short vacation that saw, among other events, the release of an Emporio Armani campaign in which he and his wife, Victoria, appear in their underwear in print and on billboards in such locations as New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Rome, Paris and Tokyo, Beckham is stateside to play the remainder of the MLS campaign, which began in March and runs until the MLS Cup championship game on Nov. 22.

The Galaxy is touting Beckham's return on its Web site and related marketing, as are other MLS clubs on the upcoming schedule. Beckham's schedule began with an appearance in Los Angeles on July 11 to help unveil Footprint Fields, a program from adidas, Fieldturf and MLS that will develop soccer fields in urban communities. There will be one or two workouts with the Galaxy before he hits Giants Stadium on July 16 for a game against the New York Red Bulls to be shown on Fox Soccer Channel, followed by a friendly match in Los Angeles on July 19 against his AC Milan club that will be carried nationally on ESPN and then a match in Kansas City against the Wizards on July 25 that will be shown nationally on ESPN 2. This week also will see the release of The Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl, which includes a section that was excerpted in Sports Illustrated in which Landon Donovan, a Galaxy teammate and a member of the U.S. national soccer team, called out Beckham for not being a good teammate and not being committed to the Galaxy.

Beckham's status with AC Milan and his return to MLS translated into ill-will in the U.S. Long story short, it took weeks of negotiations and millions of dollars for Beckham to rejoin the Galaxy after the loan period doubled from three to six months for his third and what might be his last season in what was originally a five-year, $250 million deal (including marketing). Beckham has the option after the 2009 MLS season to either return to the Galaxy or buy out the final two years. In preparation for the 2010 World Cup, Beckham is expected to play in as many as four qualifying games with England's national team, all of which take place during the current MLS season. If England does qualify, Beckham said he would devote his full attention to winning the World Cup, which will be played in South Africa June-July 2010.

The Beckhams in new Armani campaign.Back in 2007, the arrival in America of David and Victoria  (Posh Spice) Beckham was awarded Hollywood status, including coverage of appearances with such friends as Tom Cruise and Will Smith. Some 700 media credentials were granted for a July 2007 coming out event to introduce Beckham as a member of the Galaxy at the team's 27,000-seat Home Depot Center. This time, coverage of his first public appearance, which was for the Footprint Fields event, drew a number of media more in the dozens heavily slanted toward local press, and was much more low-key, especially unusual considering that Beckham was there and that the cause was so worthy.

At this point, it is not even certain that Beckham and the Galaxy will make the MLS playoffs. The team is on a three-game winning streak, but has won only five of its first 17 games (5-3-9) and welcomes back Beckham amidst controversy not only regarding the new book but also about the circumstances under which he has returned. Beckham certainly will draw big crowds and generate press, but could be hard-pressed to be as an athlete with one foot out the door and not as a loyal soldier fighting the good fight for the Galaxy, MLS and soccer in the U.S.

Update of recent Beckham events:
• Celebrated 10th wedding anniversary with Victoria.
• Appeared in Emporio Armani print-billboard-Internet campaign with Victoria.
• Awarded "substantial" damages by London's High Court over a story, since deemed false, in a U.K. tabloid that he "made a play" for another woman.
• Involved in situation regarding The Beckham Experiment, including his rebuttal to Landon Donovan's quotes. "It’s unprofessional in my eyes. In every soccer player’s eyes throughout the world it would be unprofessional to speak out about a teammate especially in the press and not to your face,” he told the Associated Press.

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