So here it is, the day many soccer fans have waited for since January. The Los Angeles Galaxy come to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Wizards in Major League Soccer.
Local radio stations spent the summer hyping the West Coast soccer team's arrival. But all the excitement surrounding this game can be attributed to one name: David Beckham.
The only problem is, Beckham isn't playing.
An ankle injury in late August has sidelined the hyped soccer star and most likely has put an end to his American tour for the season.
On the surface that seems like a $250 million disappointment. The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England national team star was supposed to elevate the status of Major League Soccer and give it credibility among the most prominent leagues around the world, such as the English Premier League, Italy's Serie A and Spain's La Liga. But most importantly it was supposed to put people who would otherwise yawn at the idea of soccer in the seats of MLS stadiums around the United States.
In one sense it is. The league needs Beckham to be on the field if it is going to reap any rewards for the hefty chance it took.
But in another sense it isn't. The signing of David Beckham was a chance MLS had to take.
In its 11-year history, the league has done an admirable job of establishing soccer as a viable product in the anti-soccer, football-dominated climate that is America. Where many soccer leagues have failed (and they are numerous), MLS has established an eager and devoted fan base that routinely fills the soccer-only complexes around the league.
But as in many fledgling endeavors, that aspect may have gone as far as it's going to go.
The league has arrived at the next phase of its development: widening its fan base to those who don't know, don't like, or just don't understand the game.
That's where Beckham comes in. Let's face it, at one time the man was one of the premier players in the world. His days with English Premier League team Manchester United were full of outstanding play and limitless excitement. But these days he has slowed a step and was even dumped by the English national team, and then played his way back on. Don't get me wrong, Beckham's ability to bend the ball by some sort of freakish mind control into the net is amazing. Few in the world can do that.
But Beckham is pure celebrity.
Go to his Web site and it's like walking into a GQ photo shoot. And to many in the die-hard soccer community, the bringing of Beckham to America may be akin to when Metallica totally sold out with the "Black Album."
But for soccer to progress in this country, the celebrity of Beckham is necessary. Try bringing elite world players like Ronaldhino, Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Essein to America.
Exactly, you have no idea who they are.
So while Beckham will be absent from tonight's festivities at Arrowhead, his impact still will be felt. Many people who bought tickets purely on the idea of Beckham's presence probably still will go to the game. And if that's the case, it's a golden opportunity for the Wizards, Galaxy and MLS to perhaps earn a few more fans - with a little help from one expensive Englishman, of course.