Season tickets fly

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

David Beckham is coming, David Beckham is coming.

Prepare for the Atlantic Ocean to part as God's gift to soccer makes his way from the world's biggest soccer stage -- Europe -- to the bright lights of La La Land and Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy.

Already there's a media frenzy surrounding the move -- it won't happen until August by the way -- that rivals anything the world game has accomplished in North America since Brandi Chastain stripped down to her bra after the U.S. women won the World Cup in 1999.

And the hoopla isn't limited to the Excited States.

Toronto FC -- Major League Soccer's newest franchise -- sold more than 300 season tickets yesterday on the news that Beckham might, just might, make an appearance at the nearly completed BMO Stadium in its inaugural season.

Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston was absolutely over the moon about the deal when he was contacted in Indianapolis preparing for today's MLS SuperDraft, where his team will get the first pick.

"I've offered to trade our first pick for Beckham," Johnston said jokingly.

He said that the deal has taken the soccer world by storm.

"Beckham is all everyone is talking about here," Johnston said. "It's the day before the SuperDraft and all anybody wants to talk about is Beckham."

Johnston said that for a new franchise such as Toronto the announcement was like manna from heaven.

"He's one of the biggest names in the world. To have him come at the age of (31) years old is wonderful," he said. "We sold 300 tickets (yesterday). That's remarkable."

The next step for Johnston and his bosses at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. is to pressure MLS into scheduling the Galaxy's only visit to Toronto this year after Beckham arrives in August.

"As a new team we need that kind of help and bringing Beckham to Toronto would be wonderful," Johnston said.

One would think that it would be the least MLS could do for Toronto since MLS already has cashed the reported $15 million US cheque MLSEL wrote to get the expansion franchise.

LIKE GRETZKY MOVE

However, it is worth looking beyond the star-struck masses to discuss just what Beckham will bring to North American soccer.

There already have been comparisons to the Wayne Gretzky trade to the Los Angeles Kings and the effect it had on hockey's popularity in the United States.

Remember that while Gretzky at the time was in his prime as a hockey player, the same cannot be said for Beckham's status in soccer.

Not only is he long past being the best soccer player in the world, he wasn't even the best player on Real Madrid last season.

There is no denying his star power, though, and on a continent absolutely absorbed in celebrity worship, Beckham's receding soccer talents won't matter a dime as long as he shows up at movie premieres or at the latest hot Hollywood night spot with the wife -- Posh Spice -- on his arm.

And about that reported $250-million five-year deal Beckham will get for a change of address: Most of it is made up of personal promotional contracts that already had been signed, sealed and delivered long before his thoughts wandered to setting up a new life in California.

One European soccer website yesterday screamed that the Americans had "stolen" the "world's greatest celebrity" from their shores.

That would be the same Beckham who was humiliatingly dropped from the English national team this season.

There wasn't much of an outcry then, why should there be one now?


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