If there two opposite poles of American soccer, they are the media circus in 2007 over David Beckham (and this year's) and an early round US Open Cup game between a PDL team and a USL team, neither of whom you actually follow.
But, if David Beckham had not come to the L.A. Galaxy two years ago, I doubt I would have gone up to Bremerton a month or so back to watch the Kitsap Pumas host the Portland Timbers in the first round of the Open Cup.
I'd played soccer and had tried to follow soccer though high school, but the MLS in its early years gave me really nothing to follow. I remember owning a Metrostars t-shirt, but I can't really remember rooting for any particular team. My favorite American player (Alexi Lalas( was on the Revolution, and I thought that team name in particular was pretty contrived. So, aside from the World Cup and whenever I ran across something, I ignored soccer.
And, that continued until Beckham was signed. And then with the help of some internet, and especially a deep online community following the then USL Sounders, I was neck deep in it, and I loved it. It also helped that I got a DVR and an iPod about the same time. I was able to record and watch whatever soccer actually came on my limited dish package and the iPod helped me quickly bone up on what I'd missed over ten years.
I especially gained an appreciation for the U.S. Open Cup. I liked that the Sounders made deep runs their last two years in USL and that is separates soccer from the other major sports in America, making it the most sporting and democratic. Its my hope to attend at least one Open Cup game (or MLS qualifier) a year.
I would have likely followed soccer anyway since the Sounders entered MLS this year. But, my depth of knowledge and appreciation for the entire sport wouldn't have been there without the head start of Beckham.
So, while I hope Beckham leaves MLS for good once the season is over, he did respark my insterest in the sport. And MLS made a lot of money, which is good too.