Posh and Becks are jumping the pond, and America might never be the same.
David Beckham's decision Thursday to join Major League Soccer's L.A. Galaxy franchise is almost certain to change perceptions of U.S. professional soccer, experts say, but the addition of Beckham and his wife, Posh Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, to the Los Angeles social scene may barely cause a ripple.
Beckham signed a $250-million, five-year contract Tuesday with the Galaxy, deciding to sever ties with Real Madrid, the Spanish club the midfielder called home since 2003, noting that he chose this new challenge in part to "make a difference with the kids."
"Soccer in America is the biggest played sport up to a certain age and that's where I want to take it to another level, because potentially it can go higher than anyone could probably believe," said Beckham, who opened a L.A. branch of his soccer academy in 2005.
When Beckham, 31, settles in southern California, he'll have his 32-year-old pop star wife and three children, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, in tow.
"I'm sure Victoria is already looking at big Beverly Hills mansions or Malibu beachfront homes. I'm sure she's looking at very expensive property there," said Rob Chilton, features director for OK! Magazine. "They'll love the restaurants, they'll love the clothes and all the trendy boutiques. That whole kind of sunglasses and white teeth lifestyle really fits in with them. They love that glamour."
But the duo, considered Britain's No. 1 celebrity couple, is unlikely to join the Hollywood A-list set anytime soon, Chilton said.
"I don't think he'll ever become an A-lister, but I think he'll certainly have a very lucrative and a pretty high-profile time in L.A. when he plays for the Galaxy," Chilton said. "I'm sure the L.A. Galaxy PR team this morning is doing cartwheels because he'll sell loads of shirts for them, he'll sell posters and mouse mats and mugs and everything."
And that may be why Beckham decided to jump ship. The L.A. Galaxy is allowing Beckham to control 100 percent of his image rights. Real Madrid reportedly controlled 50 percent of those rights in his previous contract.
"The salary is not important," Chilton said. "With David Beckham it’s all about the image rights and the merchandise. He’s got a very canny business sense, so he and his lawyers and agents will ensure that he’ll get a very, very sweet deal out of this."
Though he graces billboards from London to Tokyo, it may take some time for America to get used to the man Major League Soccer officials are calling the Michael Jordan of the sport.
"He's going to be the greatest goodwill ambassador this sport is ever going to have, certainly since Pele," said Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, the backing company of the L.A. Galaxy.
In Dexter, Mich., where the high school boys' soccer team won the state championship this fall, news of Beckham's American arrival brought a mixed reaction from coach Scott Forrester.
"He's going to be exciting to watch," Forrester said. "He'll probably be the biggest name in MLS soccer."
But Forrester doesn't expect his players to be donning Beckham's No. 23 jersey anytime soon.
"We don't have an MLS franchise that close," he said. "The closest ones we have are either in Columbus or Chicago, so It's hard to affiliate yourself as a supporter of one of those programs."
And Beckham, who played 15 years in European leagues, may find himself disappointed with the move, Chilton said.
"Everyone's thinking it's a dream move, but I'm not convinced really because David Beckham loves to play soccer and the L.A. galaxy — no offense — they're not a good team, they're not a big team, so I think he may get very frustrated with the playing level of the team.
"I'm not sure he'll find the soccer side so satisfying."