January 11, 2007 Toronto FC ticket sales impacted by David Beckham in MLS (from Canadian Press)

Phones ring at Toronto FC with news of Beckham

NEIL DAVIDSON
Canadian Press

Toronto David Beckham is used to big-time managers, having played for the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello.

Add Canadian Frank Yallop to that list.

Yallop is a former MLS coach of the year (2001) with the San Jose Earthquakes, whom he led to the MLS Cup in 2001 and 2003.

As coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Yallop will have Beckham in his lineup next season after the former England captain agreed to a deal with the MLS team Thursday.

While Beckham used to look over and see Roberto Carlos, Ashley Cole or Denis Irwin at left back, the star player will see Halifax's Ante Jazic there for the Galaxy.

Jazic, 30, came to Los Angeles this season after playing in Croatia (Hrvatski Dragovljac and Hajduk Split), Austria (Rapid Vienna) and Russia (Kuban Krasnodar).

The move to MLS and the Galaxy has worked for Jazic.

"So far I love MLS, the league itself. Los Angeles, I'm ecstatic about my way of life here," he said from Los Angeles. "So for me, it's been the best move of my life."

Life as a Galaxy player is fairly sedate off the pitch, according to the Canadian fullback.

"That'll change I imagine with Beckham (coming)," he said. "But you're fairly anonymous, no one knows you."

The Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers and Kings rule the Tinseltown sports roost.

"Hopefully with Beckham coming, the Galaxy will move up on that list," Jazic said. "But right now the team's fairly anonymous to the city. It's just the soccer-lovers, who love soccer, who supported soccer before, who know who the Galaxy are.

"But the average American who doesn't know anything about soccer probably doesn't know anything about the Galaxy."

The ripple effect of Beckham's signing was quickly felt north of the border, where Toronto FC reported 500 calls and 100 ticket sales Thursday morning alone. And seven TV cameras were on hand to record Toronto FC's reaction to the Beckham deal.

"He's one of those players that kind of transcends sports, like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky," Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, told reporters.

"It's terrific for the league, it's terrific for us. The phones have already been ringing off the hook," he added.

The expansion team already has a solid start to its ticket campaign, with some 7,000 season tickets sold.

The MLS schedule is not out yet but Anselmi says Beckham and the Galaxy will be in Toronto "later in the summer."

"L.A.'s going to be a better team, there's no question about that and they're going to sell a lot of tickets in every town that they're in," Anselmi said.

Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston, no stranger to making a splash himself after turning out for both Rangers and Celtic during his playing career, calls the Beckham signing "a turning point for this league."

"On and off the field, he puts bums on seats, there's no doubt about it," he said from Indianapolis where he was preparing for Friday's MLS draft.

Johnston also believes other star players will follow Beckham to North America.

The Galaxy could use the help. They were 11-15-6 last season, missing the playoffs. Los Angeles was 2-8-1 when Yallop took over in June.

Anselmi said Toronto FC and other teams are not involved in financing the Beckham deal, which according to the Galaxy is worth more than US$250 million (C$294 million) in salary and commercial endorsements.

According to the Washington Post, American forward Landon Donovan topped the Galaxy salary list last season at US$900,000, with defender Benjamin Benditson at the other end at a mere US$11,700.

The 2007 MLS salary cap is US$2.1 million.

New salary rules in the league allow a so-called designated player category. So for a star like Beckham, only US$400,000 is counted against the salary cap with the team owner paying the balance above that. Each team is allowed one of those players and can trade for a second.

It was quickly dubbed the David Beckham rule.

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