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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

Beckham to leave Galaxy

AP

LOS ANGELES — David Beckham will play his final game for the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup next month.

News photo
Moving on: David Beckham will play his final game with the Los Angeles Galaxy when they take on the Houston Dynamo in the MLS title game on Dec. 1. AP

Beckham and the Galaxy announced the English midfielder's decision Monday, a day after the defending MLS champions advanced to their second straight league final. Los Angeles will face Houston for the MLS title Dec. 1.

The 37-year-old Beckham isn't retiring, but the superstar gave no hint of his next move.

"I've had an incredibly special time playing for the L.A. Galaxy," Beckham said in a statement. "However, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career. I don't see this as the end of my relationship with the league, as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future."

Beckham has played in Los Angeles for six seasons since his groundbreaking move from Real Madrid, reaching three league finals and winning one MLS title last year during his best stateside campaign.

He agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy in January after playing out his initial five-year deal, turning down potential moves to wealthy Paris Saint-Germain and other clubs — including at least one Premiership team, according to Beckham.

Beckham hadn't given any overt indications he was planning to leave the Galaxy after this season with a year left on his deal. Last week, the longtime England captain pointedly denied rumors linking him to a short-term stint in Australia.

Beckham has been the star player for MLS' highest-profile franchise during his tenure, which began with a handful of rocky seasons before the Galaxy became a power under coach Bruce Arena in recent years.

As Beckham indicated in his news release, his MLS contract includes the option to purchase a league franchise when his playing career ends, and Beckham has long been keen on an ownership move.

"In my time here I have seen the popularity of the game grow every year," Beckham said. "I've been fortunate to win trophies, but more important to me has been the fantastic reception I've had from fans in L.A. and across the States. Soccer's potential has no limits in this wonderful country, and I want to always be part of growing it."

Beckham's announcement indicated the MLS Cup will be his final "competitive" match with the Galaxy, which means he might participate in lucrative overseas friendlies often played by the Galaxy in recent years. But Los Angeles has no overseas exhibitions currently scheduled, so the championship game might be his final bow.

"Seldom does an athlete redefine a sport," said Tim Leiweke, the president of Galaxy owners AEG. "David not only took our franchise to another level, but he took our sport to another level. It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of his world, and more importantly, to have him be a part of ours."

Beckham has been among MLS' top players when healthy throughout his contract, and the gifted playmaker has meshed well with fellow international stars Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan during the Galaxy's past two seasons.

Los Angeles got off to a slow start this year, but has played splendidly down the stretch and into the postseason, rolling to a first-round elimination of the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes and a two-leg triumph over the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference finals.



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