Will America's sports stars be able to financially bend it like Beckham?
That's what some are wondering as the Michael Jordan of the soccer world sets his sights on America. David Beckham agreed to a five-year, $250 million deal Thursday that will send him to Los Angeles to play for Major League Soccer's Galaxy franchise.
The deal will give the 31-year-old British midfielder full control to go after lucrative endorsements without handing over the profits to his team, as was the case with his current employer, Real Madrid in Spain.
But America's sporting royals shouldn't worry yet that Beckham and his wicked grin will cut into their own endorsement deals.
"In some ways it may benefit some of those sports stars," said Scott Branvold, a professor in sports management at Pittsburgh's Robert Morris University. "If he's going to get the amount of money they're talking about, it may raise the bar."
Beckham said Thursday he wasn't making the move for the money.
"It’s not what I’m going out there to do," he said. "I’m going out to hopefully build a club and a team that’s got a lot of potential. I think that’s what excites me."
The $250 million deal places nearly 80 percent of the salary on a joint endorsement deal with CAA Sports and 19 Entertainment, which is run by American Idol creator Simon Fuller.
"Clearly one of the things you may see in the U.S. is it's kind of a market that may be at least partially untapped for his brand," Branvold said. "He may find opportunities to do that."
But it will also give Major League Soccer a huge push as a global brand, says Mark Noonan, president of the sports marketing agency Focal Sport, and a former vice president of the league.
"This is not just a U.S. deal," Noonan said. "This had global ramifications given the iconic status that Beckham has around the world."
In 2000, when soccer star Lothar Matthäus signed a deal with the league's MetroStars, MLS was able to secure a deal to broadcast the games in his native Germany and across Europe, Noonan said.
"This is going to be 10, 20, 50 times that with Beckham," Noonan said. "This is considerable from an economic standpoint, when you think about the global rights, the values as the MLS games are now carried around the world, not just the U.S."
Beckham, and his 32-year-old wife, Victoria, are nearly as popular as the royals in Britain, gracing magazines and tabloids across the country.
"The British have a love-hate relationship with Posh and Becks," said Rob Chilton, the features director of OK! Magazine. "There's a lot of people who think they are over the top, extravagant, annoying — cause they're always in the papers; a lot of people are just sick and tired of them. However there are a lot of other people in Britain who are fascinated by them and will buy magazines just because they are on the cover."
Tackling the U.S. may be risky for the former Manchester United player.
"If he's going to try and capitalize on his fame through his soccer it may not be as effective as it would be in other parts of the world," Branvold said. "My guess is there may be a spike in interest in soccer because many people have heard of him."
For Beckham, who joins the Galaxy in August after his contract with Real Madrid expires, the challenge will be to use that fame to heighten the sport's popularity in the U.S.
"He already has a plethora of global endorsements," Noonan said. "He's already become known with his very famous wife in her own right. So they as a couple transcend the sports pages and get into the entertainment and gossip pages and raise the profile of the sport and the teams in this country."
And ultimately he'll do that with his play, Noonan said.
"He can't just be a marketing endorsement publicity [machine]," Noonan said. "He needs to be the best player in the league."