How David Beckham Conquered MLS & Created A $1 Billion Football Club
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
— Updated on 9 October 2023

How David Beckham Conquered MLS & Created A $1 Billion Football Club

— Updated on 9 October 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

When David Beckham turned his back on Europe in 2007 for a second career with America’s Major League Soccer (MLS), everyone thought he’d gone mad.

“There were some players in the team that were pool cleaners or gardeners,” the man himself recalled of LA Galaxy in Netflix’s Beckham docuseries.

“I actually… I didn’t believe it.”

RELATED: The “Noble” Reason Lionel Messi Signed With Inter Miami

Beckham’s own mother, Sandra West, added: “I actually went out with him for his first game. I did sit there and think, ‘What have you done?'”

But it wasn’t just because the nascent competition, which had only been established a decade prior, was decidedly fourth-rate by any comparison.

Reports later revealed the key financial dimensions of the English football icon’s contract with LA Galaxy had been greatly exaggerated by his own PR team.

$32.5 million over five years (or $6.5 million per year) was his actual baseline salary as opposed to the $250 million sum initially plastered across headlines; the latter had been inflated by potential outside revenue streams. Ostensibly, Becks was copping a hefty 70% pay cut.

Of course, the upfront compensation wasn’t the only detail outlined within his LA Galaxy contract. As we now know, there were hundreds of millions — potentially a whole billion — of untapped value at stake.

Aside from the aforementioned baseline salary, which the MLS instituted the “Designated Player Rule” (AKA the “David Beckham Rule”) just to pony up, similar to what Inter Miami would eventually plate up to entice Lionel Messi (more on this later), David Beckham was guaranteed an undisclosed percentage of all LA Galaxy revenue to bridge the gap. Tickets, merchandise, sponsorships, the whole shebang.

According to sports-business expert Joe Pompliano, effectively, the revised earnings during his brief-yet-impactful tenure in Los Angeles translated to the following…

  • Five-Year Salary: $32.5 million
  • Revenue Share: $18 million
  • Sponsorships & Endorsements: $204.5 million
    Total: $255 million
How David Beckham Conquered The MLS & Created A $1 Billion Football Club - Inter Miami
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

“David Beckham averaged over $50 million of income per season in MLS — a 155% increase from the money he made at Real Madrid.”

“And in total, Beckham made an astounding $800 million by the time he retired from professional soccer in 2013,” explains Pompliano.

But that wasn’t all.

In an unprecedented move, Beckham’s LA Galaxy contract included a unique provision that entailed the option to acquire an MLS expansion franchise in any market except New York City at an extremely reasonable fixed price of $25 million once he was done playing for the league.

Back then, $25 million was a figure that worked in the MLS’s favour considering Toronto FC had only just joined for $10 million. Over time, however, the David Beckham Effect would elevate this previously neglected facet of football; to the point where the $25 million expansion fee is now a relative bargain when compared to the $500 million Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour will fork out for his newly-proposed San Diego team.

Pompliano continues: “A $500 million expansion fee instantly makes San Diego’s MLS team more valuable than Premier League clubs like Newcastle United ($440 million), Leeds United ($380 million), Aston Villa ($370 million), and Crystal Palace ($335 million) — despite San Diego not having its own stadium or ever playing a competitive match.

How David Beckham Conquered The MLS & Created A $1 Billion Football Club - Inter Miami
(Photo by Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

“San Diego’s $500 million expansion fee is 2.5X more than the $200 million fee St. Louis City SC paid last year, 5X more than the $100 million fee New York City FC paid in 2015, and 50X more than the $10 million fee Toronto FC paid in 2007.”

In 2018, five years after David Beckham punctuated an illustrious playing career with a single season at Paris Saint-Germain (and a little longer since he’d collected two MLS Cups), the Miami Beckham United group was awarded the 25th MLS franchise: Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami or Inter Miami CF.

By the time Inter Miami debuted with their first game in March 2020, the club was already the 10th most valuable MLS franchise and valued at approximately $580 million — close to 24 times the original $25 million expansion fee. And they hadn’t even begun to hit the stratosphere yet.

As you will have definitely heard by now, with the conclusion of his own Paris St-Germain contract, Lionel Messi officially declared for David Beckham’s Inter Miami — turning down an insanely lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal as well as the opportunity for a homecoming return to Barcelona FC in the process.

The MLS side’s “layered offer” to football’s reigning GOAT is reportedly comprised of the following…

  • a roster spot immune to the limits of MLS salary regulations (exact figures TBA)
  • an ownership stake in Inter Miami once he retires from the field (exact percentage TBA)
  • revenue-sharing agreements with both Adidas and Apple (MLS Season Pass profits)
Lionel Messi Inter Miami
(Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

Sounds familiar, no?

And if you thought the David Beckham Effect was impressive, wait until you get a load of what Messi’s arrival to the Land of the Free/Home of the Brave has already done for Inter Miami’s profile. Aside from winning what was once a bottom-tier side’s maiden trophy with the 2023 Leagues Cup and punching their ticket to the US Open Cup finals within weeks of lacing up.

As per Bleacher Report, the cheapest ticket for Inter Miami’s July 21st match before the Argentinian talent announced his blockbuster move was just $29. The cheapest ticket for the same match immediately after? $467 (with some selling for as much as $20,000 on the grey market).

RELATED: Apple’s $2.5 Billion “Gamble” On Major League Soccer Is Already Paying Off

In a country where NBA basketball, NFL football, and of course, MLB baseball aren’t just the dominant sports but practically religions, Inter Miami is now one of the most-followed American sports teams on Instagram at around 15.4 million — trailing behind the Golden State Warriors (30.6 million), Los Angeles Lakers (22.8 million), Cleveland Cavaliers (15.7 million); while dwarfing every NFL franchise and surpassing Italy’s Inter Milan.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Inter Miami’s total valuation is steadily cruising towards the $1 billion benchmark.

“It’s a gamble to try become the Messiah of American soccer. He was risking everything by coming here,” noted Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains The World.

“I didn’t want to sit still… I want to win with the best players and the best team.”

David Beckham, Netflix’s ‘Beckham’

**Note: All $$$ = USD (not adjusted for inflation)

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]