Trying to not spend it like Beckham

Jane Lindholm Feb 12, 2007

Trying to not spend it like Beckham

Jane Lindholm Feb 12, 2007

Los Angeles Galaxy Goalkeeper Coach Tim Hanley surveys the hopefuls in the final round of the team’s open tryouts.

Photos by Jane Lindholm.

KAI RYSSDAL: Over the weekend soccer star David Beckham did what he does best. He scored for his European club Real Madrid by bending a free kick around a wall of defenders.

Beckham’s playing out his contract in Europe. When he signed last month to play with the Los Angeles Galaxy, it made headlines. Because Beckham’s the closest thing to a household name soccer has. And his arrival on American shores is sure to draw more attention.

But Becks can’t play all by himself. With other slots on the roster to fill, the Galaxy are looking for a few good men. And it’s looking for ’em cheap. Marketplace’s Jane Lindholm hit the field with the hopefuls.

GARY GOMEZ: My name is Gary Gomez. I’m with the Los Angeles Galaxy. The coaches right now and support staff are conferring, but it’s gonna take just a little bit longer than they anticipated . . . “

JANE LINDHOLM: Eight hundred hopefuls showed up for open tryouts at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California this weekend. They were there for the chance to play with David Beckham.

Kevin Payne traveled all the way from Exeter, England.

KEVIN PAYNE: Without Beckham, I wouldn’t have come out. It’s the fact that he’s English. I’m English. You know. And it’s the whole spoof aspect of it: you know, Beckham’s out here and so here comes Kev, I’m going to play with Beckham as well, you know? Once in a lifetime opportunity, really. Too good to miss.

That’s right: “You too can play with an aging international superstar!” Except you’ll only make $30,000. David Beckham’s 5-year, $250 million deal is a record-breaker. Even some of the best players don’t command more than $400,000 a year.

Steven Cohen co-hosts the radio show World Soccer Daily. He says given Beckham’s staggering price tag, the Galaxy could use a few cheap players. Hence, open tryouts.

STEVEN COHEN: If they could find somebody who costs them like $3 a day, it would be great.

ALEXI LALAS: Oh, this is not a revenue-generating type of situation at all. Especially if we’re hoping to recoup any money that we spent on David Beckham.

That’s Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas. He says none of this is about saving money or boosting ticket sales. Au contraire: open tryouts are all about finding new talent.

LALAS: While we do our best to blanket what is a very, very big country and a tremendous wealth of talent, there are folks that fall through the cracks. And at the end of the day, if we are able to identify one player that we feel has the potential to become a quality professional player for the Galaxy, then it was well worth it.

Open tryouts are nothing new in professional sports. But rookies are rarely signed that way. For professional soccer, it’s a little bit different. Steven Cohen of World Soccer Daily says soccer players are often signed as walk-ons because the U.S. does a poor job of recruiting.

COHEN: Soccer in this country, for some absurd reason, has been marketed and targeted to . . . and by . . . the white suburban soccer mom. And I don’t know that, until quite recently, there was much effort put into going in and finding people in the Latino community. And I think that if you go into the African American community, I think you’ll be amazed.

Keegan Pierce

works for Chivas USA

, the Galaxy’s Los Angeles rival. He says it’s not a matter of marketing. The difficulty is in identifying good players, wherever they are, and channeling them into professional development leagues. Team-sponsored development leagues are still in their infancy.

KEEGAN PIERCE: Most people, realistically speaking, are not expecting to find Ronaldinho

in a park. I think, really, the main idea is that the more opportunities you can give to kids who might not otherwise have opportunities, the more . . . the deeper your player pool is. And the more opportunity you’re giving for there to be a strong soccer pool in this country.

The Galaxy are hoping that their dip into that pool is worth it. The team has awarded trial contracts to two players from last weekend’s open tryouts.

In Los Angeles, I’m Jane Lindholm for Marketplace.
Hopefuls check a list to see if they made the final cut.

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