The curtain has come down early on the first act of the David Beckham show.
The English superstar, brought to Major League Soccer in July to inject new life into the league and soccer in the U.S., is done for the season. Beckham suffered a sprained right knee and will be sidelined for "approximately six weeks," the Los Angeles Galaxy said Thursday night.
It means that Beckham's first MLS season is essentially over, after playing only 310 minutes in six games at a guaranteed salary of $6.5 million a year.
His arrival in Los Angeles, with his wife, Victoria, the former Spice Girls singer, triggered vast publicity, partly because of Beckham's reputation as a world-class athlete, but also because of the hype that surrounds the celebrity couple. Beckham's first Galaxy game was attended by his friend Tom Cruise and televised nationally by ESPN, and he drew 66,237 fans this month to a Galaxy match in New Jersey.
Soccer merchandise and tickets have been sold in record numbers, not only here but in every MLS city, based on Beckham playing.
Beckham underwent an MRI scan to determine how much damage was done to his knee when he sprained his medial collateral ligament from a tackle during Wednesday night's loss to Pachuca of Mexico in a match at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Los Angeles plays eight MLS games in September and four more in October, but it appears unlikely that Beckham will return to take part in what by then will be the meaningless last two or three Galaxy matches. He also will miss the England national team's crucial two Euro 2008 qualifying games against Israel and Russia in London next month and possibly two more in October.
"At the moment it doesn't feel great," Beckham said of his right knee Wednesday night, although he just as easily could have been talking about his injured left ankle.
Beckham reported to the Galaxy with a swollen left ankle he hurt in his final game with his former team Real Madrid, causing him to miss seven of his first 13 games with the Galaxy.
"It's just gone from one thing to another thing. Maybe it's time for me to just say I need the rest and get it right and don't come back until it's right," he said.
Planned exhibition matches with Beckham and the Galaxy have been scheduled in Canada and Australia. In Vancouver, 45,000 tickets have been sold for an Oct. 3 exhibition and the opening page on the Vancouver Whitecaps' website includes the message "Beckham is coming" and a countdown clock clicking off the days, hours, minutes and seconds until he arrives.
In MLS, meanwhile, clubs maintain that there will be no refunds if Beckham can't play.
Beckham's MLS contract calls for him to get extra money from various endorsement deals that reportedly could push the total value of his five-year deal to $250 million.
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