There's a lot more time for David Beckham and Real Madrid to reverse course yet again on whether he will come to MLS earlier than the summer.
True, the European transfer window closes next Wednesday and Beckham's contract with Real doesn't officially expire until June 30. However, in the case of a player under contract moving between teams in different countries, his eligibility to be registered and play in competitive matches is determined by the transfer window in the country of destination, not the country of departure.
In either case, there's much more flexibility with the American transfer windows than there has been in the past. If he sits stewing on the bench at Real he won't have long to wait once the Spanish season is over.
In the past, the U.S. secondary (summer) window didn't open until Aug. 15 and closed Sept. 15, but those dates have changed. (The dates are set by the national soccer federations in each country and are subject to FIFA approval.) The new dates are June 15 to Aug. 15.
The primary American transfer window opened Jan 15 and doesn't close until April 15, meaning if Real coach Fabio Capello changes his mind once again on whether to field Beckham, he could be transferred during that time and registered to play in MLS. Before this year, the American registration period ran from Jan. 1 to March 31.
So, even if he does come in the summer, Beckham will be eligible to play for a much greater portion of the MLS season than in the past, which will make those fans that bought season tickets in cities other than Los Angeles happy. He'd miss two-thirds of the season if he couldn't play until mid-August.
The earlier dates also clear up any confusion regarding the SuperLiga tournament, which doesn't start until July 24. Because it is not an official FIFA or CONCACAF competition he technically would have been eligible anyway, since the registration restrictions don't apply to friendlies or exhibitions, such as the All-Star Game (July 19). But since the SuperLiga tournament is offering $1 million in prize money, it could fall into a gray area.