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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
MLS plays down Beckham importance
MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis
Gazidis says the MLS is ready for its close-up
The deputy commissioner of Major League Soccer says the future of football in the United States will not hinge on David Beckham's success.

But Ivan Gazidis told BBC World Service that Beckham's signing for LA Galaxy is a statement of intent.

Gazidis said: "He raises our profile and puts down a marker that this league is serious about its future.

"We're committed to growing the sport in the US, but David Beckham can't do that on his own."

Beckham's arrival in the States has been compared to Pele's attempts to keep the ill-fated NASL alive in the 1980s.

Beckham raises our profile, and we have to be ready for our close-up

MLS deputy commission Ivan Gazidis

But Gazidis told the World Football show: "It's a different time and you can't draw parallels between Pele and Beckham.

"The game has a following in this country now. We have 20 million kids playing across the country and more people watched the World Cup final last year than watched the baseball World Series.

"We're building soccer-specific stadiums right across the country and we're creating an infrastructure for the game.

"We're developing good young American players at an increasingly fast rate and 10 years from now we're going to see world-class players coming out of America.

"That in itself is not down to the David Beckham moment. This is a very big step for us, but one of many different steps to build the game up not just for next year or even the next five years, but for years to come beyond that.

"Beckham raises our profile, and we have to be ready for our close-up."

Gazidis also hit back at those who have criticised the standard of the MLS.

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He said: "I think we're undervalued and players who come here from Europe have to be on their A-game.

"If players coming here aren't prepared to work hard they will fail. Some very good players have failed because it is a competitive league.

"In five years time we will have players of international stature in the league, not just guys who are at the end of their careers.

"The only way to prove the standard is through international competition and that's why we want to enter the Libertadores Cup."

You can hear the full interview with Ivan Gazidis on World Football on BBC World Service this Saturday at 0730 and 1130 BST.



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