David Beckham buys his own gas? Apparently, because one of the moments that made him feel as if his soccer marketing adventure had been a success occurred when someone approached him while he was filling up his tank near the Los Angeles Galaxy's Home Depot Center.
"They didn't know anything about soccer, but they said, 'We're coming to your game tonight,'" Beckham says. "We've reached people we've never reached before."
The numbers bear him out. Though Beckham retiring from the Galaxy -- he has one game left, Saturday's MLS Cup championship against the Houston Dynamo -- doesn't shake the landscape like Kobe Bryant walking away from the Los Angeles Lakers, he has made a significant impact on the state of soccer in the USA in his six years since coming over from his native England.
During that time, Major League Soccer has enjoyed unprecedented growth -- from 12 to 19 teams, 10 new, soccer-specific stadiums, more than double its overall attendance and a huge increase in worldwide marketing.
Part of the idea in signing Beckham to a five-year deal for $32.5 million was that the Galaxy and MLS called upon Beckham to use his international celebrity to raise awareness about the league and soccer in general in the USA. (The contract was extended for two years after last year, with each party having the right to opt out after one year.)
Six years later, all the parties are happy with the results.
"He's a player who will be unmatched for many years in this league," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena says.
Beckham says it's up to others to gauge his impact. "If (greater awareness and interest) is what I brought to the league, great," he says.
Though 37, Beckham says he is not retiring as a player.
"I do still feel like I can play," he says. "I do believe I have another challenge left inside of me. I'm flattered to have some other options."
He says he won't play for another MLS team. Beyond that, he offers no hints. He says he'll probably make a decision when he goes home to London for Christmas.
But first, he has a game Saturday. "It's our third MLS final, the second in our own stadium," he says.
Still, he says, it will be hard to walk away as a Galaxy player.
"These were amazing years," he says, also admitting that he's "still getting used to calling it soccer."
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