D.C. United has announced Thursday's game against the Galaxy -- to be televised on ESPN2 -- is a sellout.
Now, how many of those 45,000 tickets will actually be used, with the prospect likely David Beckham will sit this one out as well, and how vitriolic will be the fans who do show up? Boos rained down on Becks at BMO Field in Toronto Sunday as he sat on the bench during a 0-0 tie, which was also nationally televised, but still the place was packed.
D.C. didn't "downsize" RFK for this high-demand match. Soccer crowds as large as 57,431 (MLS Cup 1997) and 54,282 (U.S. vs. Honduras, 2001) have filled the ancient edifice, but to accommodate a baseball configuration for the Washington Nationals more than 11,000 seats have been removed.
England coach Steve McLaren will be in attendance, to discuss with Becks his health and availability, as well as check out the standard of MLS play. Requests are supposed to forwarded 14 days in advance of an international, so with a Aug. 22 friendly against Germany on the horizon, by the time the game kicks off McLaren will have submitted his request.
Since the Aug. 22 game is a friendly, Becks is required to report only 48 hours before game time, which means he could play in New Jersey against Red Bull New York Aug. 18, and hop across the pond in plenty of time.
Or, seeing the sad state of Beckham's ankle, McLaren will forego his services this time and point instead toward the Sept. 8 and Sept. 12 qualifiers against Israel and Russia, respectively. Already on the injured list for England are defenders John Terry, Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King, thus Becks won't be the only one sitting out this clasico against a traditional English rival at Wembley.
After the D.C. game, the Galaxy plays New England Sunday (televised live on Galavision), United again next Wednesday in the SuperLiga (TeleFutura), and then the Red Bulls (on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Espanol). Ironic indeed it would be if his first MLS appearance is carried on a national outlet other than ESPN or its offshoots, but unless Galaxy trainer Ivan Pierra -- one of the best in the business, by the way -- can come up with a miraculous magic spray and/or sponge, that will be the case.
If Becks doesn't cross the Atlantic to play for England, he'll also be available for the Superclasico against Chivas USA on Aug. 23 at Home Depot Center on yet another Thursday night ESPN2 telecast. And if he's still not fit, well, then it will be time to panic.
In retrospect, the Galaxy honchos probably erred in trotting out Becks to play Chelsea July 21. To their credit, they don't seem willing to take that risk again, regardless of marketing concerns, competitive issues, or broadcast arrangements.