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Balancing what beckons Beckham
by Ridge Mahoney, May 23rd, 2007 10AM

TAGS:  mls


Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas, talking on his cell phone at the Denver airport waiting for a connecting flight to Los Angeles, is wary of loading too many exhibition matches onto his team's schedule.

Lalas was returning from Minneapolis, having concluded negotiations for his team to feed off the frenzy that will hit these shores in another month or so. Still, playing at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Oct. 10 against an opponent to be named later makes sense, even if the game - and a match one week earlier in Vancouver - occurs during the critical final weeks of the MLS regular season.

That's what happens when you sign David Beckham. The world comes calling.

"We took on some financial responsibilities by signing a certain player," says Lalas, "and everyone at our club knows those responsibilities mean we have to generate revenue whenever we can. Believe me, we've had to turn down some attractive and lucrative proposals because we were concerned about our players and our organization doing too much.

"Because of our commitments in MLS and other competitions you'll see us do more of this in the postseason and preseason next year. Our players and coaches understand this, and David, too, knows that this is part of the gig."

In this case, the gig is a match promoted by the USL Minnesota Thunder and its ambitious director of soccer operations, Manny Lagos, who emerged from a long college and pro playing career as universally liked as a person can be. Lagos, a native of St. Paul, Minn., hopes to promote the Copa Minnesota as a regular international soccer event. For this first edition, Mexican club UNAM is among the possible foes for the Galaxy.

"As soon as we signed Beckham, Manny Lagos was on the phone, saying 'You need to come here,'" says Lalas. "He made it attractive for us, financially and competitively, and I'll say straight out, if it wasn't for Manny Lagos and his hard work, this game doesn't happen."

Lalas didn't reveal financial details but a source says the Galaxy is being guaranteed a fee of $500,000. Lagos wants to break the state soccer attendance record set in June, 1976, when a crowd of 46,164 came to see Pele and the Cosmos play the Minnesota Kicks at Metropolitan Stadium. The Metrodome can accommodate 64,000 for soccer. A 1984 Metrodome crowd of 52,000 attended a soccer game that also featured a Beach Boys concert, or vice versa.

"Copa Minnesota will be an amazing international soccer event that will boost local and regional interest in the sport," said Lagos in a press release. He played for the MetroStars, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Chicago and San Jose in MLS as well as in France and Spain after earning all-America honors at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"Two great teams are coming together with a lot of star power. This is a not-to-be-missed soccer event for fans and families, and of course, we are very excited to bring the biggest soccer star in the world, David Beckham, to the Twin Cities."

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