David Beckham will be absent from the Galaxy's match against Houston. Nothing new, right? Beckham missing a Galaxy game. It's happened quite a bit since he joined the club in 2007.
This time around, though, the reason is different. He's gone not because of England duty, because he's on loan or because he's injured. Nope. This time, it's due to a testimonial match.
Gary Neville's testimonial match was enough to draw Beckham across the pond and force him to skip out on the Galaxy-Houston match.
When rumblings over this very matter began to surface, so too did the all-too-familiar criticism:
Beckham doesn't care! Beckham is not committed to MLS! He's only in it for himself!! How could the Galaxy let him leave? He's turning his back on the club!
Sure, Galaxy ticket holders have some right to be upset. Beckham is the Galaxy's biggest draw, and fans who splurged on this ticket for the chance to see Beckham play may very well be a little irritated.
But firing shots at Beckham or the LA Galaxy is ill-advised. You want to find someone to be upset over? How about Major League Soccer?
What exactly is Beckham missing? Well, he's missing a regular-season game. This is meaningful, right? This is what players get paid to do, to play in these games and to win these games, right?
Perhaps, but Beckham and the Galaxy are not minimizing the importance of this match, because MLS minimized the significance of it a long time ago.
This is a league that has played through each and every Gold Cup since the tournament switched to the current summer format in 2003. This summer's tournament is no different. When the U.S. play Panama on June 11, DC-San Jose and Houston-Chivas USA will be played directly opposite the match. Six matches will be played on June 25, the same day as the Gold Cup final.
This is a league that has scheduled league matches directly opposite World Cup qualifiers involving the U.S. national team.
MLS played right on through the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups before finally wising up and shutting down for two weeks in 2010, but only through the group stage. Then, with the world watching the World Cup knockout rounds, MLS went on with business as usual.
MLS regularly sets aside weekend summer dates for certain clubs for friendlies and crams midweek games throughout the season because of it. The regular season is a priority? Not in June, July and August.
MLS ignores international fixture dates, knowing full well that its product will be cheapened because of the absence of important players throughout the league. The league finally wised up on that - somewhat - as the league has open weekends in September and October of this season. But March 26-27 featured a full slate of games while the international calendar was rather busy as well.
MLS schedules its All-Star Game during the middle of the week, forcing its top stars to travel great distances to play in that match. Even last year, when the Galaxy had a quartet of players in the match, the league placed a greater significance on that game than anything. The Galaxy played a CONCACAF Champions League match the night before the 2010 All-Star Game, and even though Bruce Arena tried to get his four players from having to play consecutive nights in cities hundreds of miles apart form one another, the league said no and forced the Galaxy players to compete in the match.
And, perhaps most importantly, MLS consistently diminishes the meaning of said regular-season games by having a playoff system that rewards mediocrity, punishes successful teams and makes the regular season a moot point.
So Beckham decides to ask for and receives permission to attend a testimonial match and now he's the worst guy in the league, he's turning his back on his club, the team that pays his salary, because he's missing a regular-season game?