LOS ANGELES -- Bend this, TomKat and Brangelina: Posh and Becks are coming to Hollywood.
And David Beckham didn't even have to audition to become the next American Idol.
The most recognized soccer player on the planet -- fashion icon, tabloid fixture, marketing giant -- announced a deal Thursday to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"David Beckham is a global sports icon who will transcend the sport of soccer in America," gushed Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.
Bringing free kicks, glitz and his Spice Girl wife, Beckham is leading another British invasion, hoping to do for American soccer what the Beatles once did for pop music -- make it rock.
"The main thing for me is to improve the soccer, to improve the standard, and to be part of history really because I think soccer can be a lot bigger in the U.S.," the 31-year-old former England captain said Friday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Beckham turned down a two-year contract extension from Spanish team Real Madrid, where his fading skills left him on the bench.
The Galaxy didn't say exactly what they'll pay him but floated a figure of $250 million in salary and commercial endorsements over the five years of his contract. In other words, his move could be worth $1 million a week.
David Beckham talks about leaving Real Madrid for the Los Angeles Galaxy and MLS.
Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas says David Beckham will help bring MLS and soccer in America to the next level. Listen
Is it a good deal for all sides? Jonathan Harris-Bass has all the reaction with ESPNsoccernet's Dom Raynor. Listen
Los Angeles opens its season April 8 in Houston, but Beckham is not expected to join the team until August. His four-year contract with Madrid expires at the end of this season.
He'll start for the Galaxy and could enter a whole new universe: His deal was negotiated over 10 days by major entertainment industry players Simon Fuller, creator of "American Idol," and Creative Artists Agency, home to some of Hollywood's biggest actors.
Fuller manages both Beckham and his pop star wife, Victoria -- whose pal Katie Holmes (and her husband Tom Cruise) are represented by CAA.
Victoria Beckham hasn't hidden her desire to launch a Hollywood career.
"It's not lost on them that it's the entertainment capital of the world and they know many people in the entertainment industry here," said Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of Galaxy owner AEG and a personal friend of the couple.
The Beckhams should fit in just fine in L.A. He opened a soccer academy at the Galaxy's stadium complex last year, and she was photographed house-hunting in the area. Their young sons carry headline-friendly monikers: Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz.
Drawing paparazzi like movie stars, Beckham and his wife regularly find their way onto tabloid and magazine covers. With trendy clothes and rotating hair colors and styles, he's the epitome of the modern celebrity-athlete.
A "Bend It Like Beckham" sequel, with more than just a cameo this time?
• NAME -- David Robert Joseph Beckham.
• AGE -- 31.
• BIRTH -- May 2, 1975, in Leytonstone, east London.
• CAREER -- Joined Manchester United as a trainee in 1991 and won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and one Champions League title before moving to Real Madrid in 2003. He failed to win a major trophy in 3½ seasons with Madrid. He was captain of England for 58 of his 94 appearances for the national team. Signed a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy but will first finish the 2006-07 season with Real Madrid.
• FAMILY -- Wife Victoria; three sons, Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz.
• QUOTE -- "I am extremely proud to have worn the armband and been captain of England and for that, I will always be grateful."
-- The Associated Press
"The first thing he needs to do is get himself a part on 'The Simpsons'" as a guest star, said Richard Laermer, a New York-based marketing expert.
Beckham's soccer skills are only part of the equation. He's David Beckham Inc., a multinational corporation with links to Pepsi, Gillette, Motorola and adidas.
The United States is the last -- and biggest -- market where Beckham's cult of personality has few converts. A superstar whose movements have convulsed Asian capitals and helped sell millions of European tabloids has been able to walk American streets in relative anonymity.
In Los Angeles, Beckham's mandate calls for raising the profile of an average team in a soccer league that has little respect overseas and less recognition than the University of Southern California football team.
"I'm going out there to hopefully build a club and team that's got a lot of potential," Beckham said. "I think that's what excites me."
The Beckham effect was felt immediately: The Galaxy sold 1,000 new season tickets Thursday morning.
The team averages between 22,000 and 24,000 fans in its 27,000-seat stadium in suburban Carson, although attendance was down last season when the Galaxy missed the playoffs.
"They know we Latinos are filling the soccer stadiums. That's why they want to bring stars here," said Juan Munguia, a 30-year-old Mexican hotel cook. "I will go just to see Beckham."
The team is anticipating changes in its fan base, especially among women.
"He appeals to so many different people," Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas said. "There is going to be a curiosity factor. There are going to be many people who are going to come to their first MLS and first Galaxy game to watch David Beckham."
|David Beckham has scored three World Cup goals. The only MLS players to score that many goals in World Cup play are Lothar Matthaus (six for Germany), Hristo Stoitchkov (six for Bulgaria) and Luis Hernandez (four for Mexico).
He's played 13 World Cup games. The only MLS players to appear in that many are Matthaus (25 for Germany) and Hong Myung Bo (16 for South Korea).
Beckham had a hand in seven of England's 12 goals in the last two World Cups. In 2002, England scored twice off Beckham corner kicks. Beckham also scored on a penalty kick vs. Argentina and assisted on a goal by Emile Heskey. In 2006, Beckham scored on a free kick, had another free kick deflected in for an own goal and assisted on Peter Crouch's goal vs. Trinidad and Tobago.
He will be the first MLS player who also appeared for the English national team. Story
Already in the works is a 2008 Galaxy tour of Asia, where Beckham is wildly popular. A new team logo will be unveiled this summer and the Galaxy's owner is nearing a deal to slap a prime sponsor's name on its jerseys.
"We will absolutely market the Galaxy as a global brand," said Leiweke of AEG, the sports and entertainment company whose holdings include Staples Center -- where the city's resident superstar, Kobe Bryant, plays for the Lakers.
MLS changed its rules on salary caps, clearing the way for Beckham to sign the lucrative deal. The league pays the first $400,000 of player contracts. Individual teams pick up the rest of the tab for anyone, such as Beckham, who makes more than that.
Beckham, who has failed to win any major titles in 3½ seasons in Madrid, said the time was right for a change.
"I've played now for two of the biggest clubs in the world and played at the highest level for 15 years, and now I think that I need another challenge," he said.
Beckham will become the biggest star to play U.S. professional soccer since Pele and Franz Beckenbauer played in the now-defunct North American Soccer League in the 1970s.
Beckham has not found much success since he moved to Madrid in 2003 from Manchester United, where he won six league titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League title. He has no major trophies with the nine-time European Cup champions.
Beckham started only five of 25 matches for Real Madrid this season.
Back in London, not everyone was impressed by Beckham's move.
"He's rubbish," said Steve Didcott, a consultant mulling the deal from a pub. "And if you're rubbish, you go to the States."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.