By ADAM SERRANO
LOS ANGELES — David Beckham has always been a vital part of AEG president Tim Leiweke's plans for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Now as Beckham prepares for his second stint with the club, Leiweke is considering the legacy that he will leave on his team.
On Thursday, the AEG-owned Galaxy announced that Beckham had re-upped with the club on a new two-year contract, turning away interest from several teams including French giant Paris-St. Germain. Now as he looks ahead to the next two years, Leiweke hopes that the Galaxy will build the foundation for a storied legacy.
"When I grew up, you always heard about the legendary Cosmos and the impact that they had on soccer," Leiweke said. "Even today there are people that argue that the Cosmos is the greatest brand in soccer, but I think that the Galaxy is the greatest brand in soccer ever, and we're trying to create that legacy right now."
Beckham's presence has always been paramount for Leiweke's lofty ambitions for the Galaxy. When the English star was signed by the club in 2007, he was trumpeted as an individual who could potentially change the perception of soccer in the United States.
As Beckham re-joins the Galaxy, he returns to a league that has changed greatly since 2007. Seven franchises have been added to the 19 team league while 13 of those franchises now play in their own soccer-specific facilities. Even so, the Englishman understands that the job is not yet complete.
"There's more that I can do. I don't think that my job as an ambassador of the league is finished. I want to continue to be a part of this, because I do feel the change," Beckham said. "In this last year I have felt the change, and I will continue to work hard to make this game grow and I'm sure there will be other players that will help continue to do that. There's a lot of players doing a lot of good work in different organizations that are making this game big in this country. … I don't believe my job is finished and that is one of the reasons I wanted to stay."
To build the Galaxy brand into a true national — and global — entity, the club must find more success on the field. After winning the Supporters' Shield, MLS Cup and advancing to the quarterfinals of the in-progress CONCACAF Champions League, the Galaxy face a formidible test to repeat their success this season.
This time around, the Galaxy will need to make several additions to bolster their roster with Juninho departing the club for Sao Paulo while Omar Gonzalez misses seven to nine months with a torn left ACL. For the Galaxy to find the right pieces, Beckham is expected to be used in a recruiting capacity — as he was when the Galaxy acquired Robbie Keane.
"We're out of Designated Player spots, so we'll see how good a recruiter he is, because they'll have to accept a salary that is not a DP salary," said Lewieke. "When David puts his mind to it then he's amazing, and Bruce will tell you that David has been very involved in trying to fill those two holes that we have with Juninho and Omar [Gonzalez]. Bruce thinks he's filled one and we're focused on filling the other."
When all is said and done, Leiweke believes that the Galaxy can not reach their goals of growing MLS' exposure and presence alone, and in the bowels of the Staples Center he issued his challenge for other teams in MLS to follow in the Galaxy's footsteps.
"We want to be the brand that people talk about changed the sport forever in this country," Leiweke said. "We aspire to be revolutionary in our thinking and in the way that we challenge every other club to come to this level and join us. Spend the money and go get the guys like Beckham, who, at the end of the day, will change the sport forever."