David Beckham was there again. The home page of the Major League Soccer (MLS), announced the return of the Briton. “But it’s not a comeback”, the MLS revealed. The 38-year-old had only trained with his former colleagues at Los Angeles Galaxy. The Englishman is enjoying a good life in California. The superstar, who still has numerous international advertising contracts, later attended a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball match, while taking close care of his two-year-old daughter Harper. Galaxy, champions for the past two years, also made headlines with other things besides “Becks” participation in training. In the North American professional football league the club hold second spot behind Real Salt Lake City in the Western Conference.
Another top player, who assisted Beckham in enabling Galaxy to achieve their recent successes, was also in the limelight. Landon Donovan, the former Bundesliga player with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, and Premier League pro with Everton FC, monopolised topics of conversation. Donovan, now 31 years old, had reached an agreement with Galaxy for a new, long-term contract. The MLS champions contracted the offensive player for another four years. The “Los Angeles Times”, very well informed about professional football in the USA, provided an interesting insight into numerous financial aspects of this contract and the league in general.
Donovan will reportedly almost double his salary, since cashing 10 million US dollars in the past four years, which means 2.5 million per year (1.9 million Euros). “This deal is the most important since England captain Beckham decided to move to the USA and play for Galaxy in 2007”, the LA Times commented. “I get 500 million for the next 20 years”, Donovan joked at the press conference on August 28. The newspaper assessed the new annual salary to be 4.5 million dollars. The midfielder, the most successful player in the MLS, underlined his sporting value during the 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, when he scored the winning goal. At the beginning of the year Donovan, who joined Leverkusen as a 17-year-old promising talent and won the German A junior championship with Bayer in 2000, had trained less and didn’t play. Nevertheless the California-born player made a lasting impression on the responsible Galaxy officials.
He had been totally identified with the club and showed interest in all procedures. “He did a lot for our organisation not noticed by outsiders”, disclosed President Chris Klein to the magazine “Sports Illustrated”. “Landon conducted sales conversations with sponsors, phoned customers and fans, often talked to our employees and assisted with support services, ticket sales and marketing. And he has done very much for our foundation”, Klein reported.
His great commitment was one certain reason why Donovan was given an outstanding salary in his new contract. But Donovan may also be worth that kind of money to his club because of his exceptional position in US international football. Winning the first Gold Cup since 2007 this summer was a valuable success and received great attention in the US media, as the traditional tournament of the national teams from North and Central America took place in the USA. The US team, coached by former German national coach Juergen Klinsmann, celebrated five victories in five matches and Donovan was the outstanding player with five goals and five assists. With 56 goals in 156 international matches, Donovan is the record scorer of the US national team. “He consolidated his reputation as the best US player of all time”, the Los Angeles Times wrote.
Another player had received a prime contract even before Donovan. According to information in the US media, Clint Dempsey, who returned from England to the USA in August, should get five million dollars per season. The Seattle Sounders pay that kind of money to the striker, who signed with the club in the US Federal State of Washington after five successful years in the Premier League with Fulham and Tottenham (a total of 213 matches/57 goals). Some 67,385 spectators attended the 30-year-old’s home debut at CenturyLink Field on the last Sunday in August, when Seattle beat neighbours Portland Timbers 1-0 in the West Coast Derby. It was the second-highest attendance in MLS history.
With the Sounders contract, Texan Dempsey, who wears the unusual shirt number 2 for a striker, is the fourth highest paid MLS player since the inauguration of the league. The entire squad of Chivas USA gets only half of that sum. In order to pay out such a salary, a club has to declare a player “designated”. Thus he doesn’t come under the existing salary limits of the MLS. A club may employ up to three professionals who are outside the financial restrictions. Prior to the 2013 season, 31 players enjoyed the “designated” status. Just three of them were US Americans. Responsible league officials, such as MLS Commissioner Don Garber, advocated that the clubs should also contract the best US players. Many internationals moved to Europe in the past.
With Donovan, Galaxy are considered one of the top favourites for the 2013 championship title. On August 17 the team defeated Conference leaders Salt Lake 4-2. Irishman Robbie Keane scored a hat-trick in front of 24,237 spectators at home at StubHub Center (the former Home Depot Center). The 2010 champions, Colorado Rapids, hold third place behind Los Angeles, followed by Portland and Seattle. FC Dallas (sixth place) and San Jose Earthquakes (eighth) are not showing top form this year. In the Eastern Conference, the Canadian team of Montreal Impact, coached by Swiss Marco Schaellibaum, continue to lead. The New York Red Bulls are in second position, followed by Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution, who are hoping for participation in the play-offs again after a weak performance last year.