A new MLS policy will allow its teams to chase a certain unsettled English star
WITH DAVID BECKHAM struggling to make his way into the Real Madrid lineup, Major League Soccer passed a rule last week that makes it easier to lure the unhappy superstar to the U.S. The Designated Player Rule (also known as the Beckham Rule) will allow each of the league's 13 teams to sign one player whose salary is not limited by the MLS salary cap, now $1.9 million per team. (Other potential targets include Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo and Brazilian striker Ronaldo.)
The league considered the rule in 2005 and didn't adopt it, but the financial landscape has since changed. New owners in Kansas City and New York ( Austria's Red Bull) have come on board, and MLS recently signed its first rights-fee national-TV deals with ESPN/ABC, Univision, HDNet and Fox Soccer Channel. "Last year we didn't have the security and long-term financial commitments we have this year," said MLS commissioner Don Garber, who noted that 17 million U.S. viewers watched the World Cup final this year—more than tuned in to any Fox World Series broadcast. "We need to find ways to make the people who watched the World Cup final into fans of Major League Soccer," Garber says, "and one way to do that is to have more internationally recognized players."