MLS Designated Players: The "Beckham Rule"

David Beckham started it all when he signed a five-year, $250 million dollar contract with the LA Galaxy in 2007. At 32 years of age, the most widely known soccer player in the world journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean and immediately jumpstarted the popularity of the MLS and game of soccer nationwide. 

The LA Galaxy’s ticket sales rose and revenue increased, but they also had success on the pitch. In 2009, two years after Beckham arrived in California, they made it all the way to the MLS cup, losing to Real Salt Lake. In 2010 they lost in the Conference Final, but in 2011 and 2012 they won the MLS Cup. Beckham’s retirement in 2012, after winning the MLS Cup at the age of 37 came as no surprise.

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

He started the phenomenon of popular international stars traveling to the MLS after they have had a successful career in Europe. Beckham also produced the Designated Player (DP) Rule or "Beckham Rule", which allows MLS clubs to purchase up to three players whose salaries exceed the team's overall budget. This rule initiated a cycle of players deciding to come play in the MLS, which generated all sorts of opinions and criticisms about the level of play in the MLS and about the age of these players. Regardless, some things are for sure ----- these players generate excitement for fans, add to the success and quality of the MLS, and increase the popularity of soccer in the United States. 

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry was next when he joined the New York Red Bulls in 2010 after leaving Barcelona FC. The striker instantly made an impact on the field and in his four years on the Red Bulls he was part of the MLS All Star Team, finalist for the MLS Most Valuable Player, and was the captain.

Robbie Keane

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Robbie Keane joined the LA Galaxy with Beckham in 2011 and his first year they won the MLS Cup. The Dublin native has scored 86 regular season goals and has won three MLS Cups. In 2014 he was awarded the MLS MVP and scored the game winner during the MLS Cup against the New England Revolution. 

Robbie Keane scores game winner in extra time during 2014 MLS Cup


Photo Credit: SBS  Kakà scores first goal in MLS Debut

Photo Credit: SBS

Kakà scores first goal in MLS Debut

Kakà joined the Orlando City SC in 2014 and was named the team’s captain before the home opener. In his first season he has scored seven goals and the former FIFA World Player of the Year is on track to having a successful first season in the MLS. 



David Villa

David Villa, the all-time leading goal scorer in Spanish national team history joined the New York City FC in 2014. In his first season he has scored four goals and scored his first goal in NYCFC’s 2-0 home opener. He was named MLS Player of the Week in March and continues to add to his successful and highly anticipated MLS career. 

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Photo Credit: MLS Soccer

Future MLS Players 

Two of the best midfielders that England has ever had will travel to play in the MLS at the conclusion of the 2015 season. Frank Lampard, former Chelsea, Manchester City and England Midfielder will join David Villa on the New York City FC in 2015. And Steven Gerrard, former Liverpool captain and England midfielder, will join Robbie Keane on the LA Galaxy. 

Photo Credit: The Telegraph  Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard

I think that his [Steven Gerrard] addition is similar to the addition of David Beckham years ago and Robbie Keane. He’s a very talented player, a great leader and a great professional so he’ll complement our team.
— Head coach and general manager Bruce Arena,

These two soccer greats and the other talented players who made the leap to MLS are sure to benefit and impact MLS in this ongoing season and in many future ones to come. Lampard and Gerrard will not be the last. The ongoing cycle of great players deciding to come to the United States to keep their soccer careers alive will continue. The fans love them and American Soccer can only continue to get better and better from their additions.