Within hours of 14-year-old Brooklyn Beckham stepping onto a training field in northern England for a practice session with Manchester United this week, the event had created a mini-frenzy in the British press and proved two things beyond doubt.
First, it showed that despite the young man's father, David Beckham, having retired from the game earlier this year, the "Becks" brand remains as strong as ever. Nothing, it seems, can diminish the fascination an international audience holds with anything related to soccer's most fashionable icon.
Second, it instantly displayed the impossible level of scrutiny that Brooklyn, a teenager who by all accounts possesses a decent level of soccer talent, will face if he is good enough or committed enough to chase his father's footsteps in the Premier League.
David Beckham's career encompassed spells with Real Madrid, the L.A. Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris St. Germain, but it was at United where he enjoyed the most success, winning six Premiership titles and the 1999 UEFA Champions League.
As ever with these things, the comparisons would be both inevitable and undoubtedly unfair should his son go forward into the professional ranks.
Thousands of youngsters try to "make it" in soccer and are given opportunities to develop in the youth system of European clubs every year. Only a small fraction last the course, while the vast majority slip down the ranks, finding a place lower on the soccer chain or, in many cases, drifting out of the game altogether.
That said, players who manage to piece together a solid career in the second-tier Championship can be said to have vastly outperformed most of their peers. However, such an outcome would not be seen as a success for Brooklyn Beckham by the cruel barometer of public opinion, even though in reality it would be a fine achievement.
Which is why, if the possibility of a pro career becomes a serious option for the eldest son of David and Victoria Beckham, a more stable and structured path would not lie in England – but in the United States.
Sure, North America does not have the soccer pedigree of Europe. Standards of coaching and technical development are generally not of the same level. However, young Beckham would be able to do what 14-year-olds who love soccer in America are supposed to do – play and enjoy the game without the burden of constant analysis and attention.
Of course, everyone would know who he was. That will always be the case unless he changes his last name. But there is naturally less of a media furor around soccer in the U.S. and around the Beckham clan, given that they might be the most famous Brits outside the royal family.
Once Brooklyn finishes school at 17, he could train under the guidance of an MLS team or even undertake the American college experience, where several members of the U.S. national team cut their teeth and gained an education in the process.
While there would certainly be some initial focus, it is hard to imagine many British television crews and gossip columnists regularly staffing NCAA soccer matches played in front of a smattering of people. The opposite would be the case in England.
Brooklyn's appearance at United this week was not even a formal tryout. It was more of an introduction to the club's staff and the chance to take part in training. Yet it still was given extensive media coverage, which was then picked by international outlets.
Imagine if he were to join the youth system of a club as a trainee, the common system in European soccer where there is no draft structure. The intensity of the media coverage would make it simply impossible for Brooklyn to flourish and would put an unpleasantly glaring spotlight on a boy simply trying to play a sport he seems to love.
David Beckham often spoke about how one of the highlights of his experience with the Galaxy, where he won two straight MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012, was the relative anonymity he was able to enjoy in the United States.
If Brooklyn's talent continues to move him toward a life in soccer, he is better off finding similar positive refuge in America.
- Sports & Recreation
- Brooklyn Beckham
- David Beckham
- Manchester United
- Victoria Beckham