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Beckham bows out, hailed as turning point for MLS

By Simon Evans

CARSON, California (Reuters) - David Beckham's L.A. Galaxy team-mates urged him to stay on for another year after they won their second successive MLS Cup on Saturday, and while their hopes will surely be in vain, the reaction epitomized the affection in which he has come to enjoy.

A chant of 'one more year' rang out from the Galaxy locker-room as the players celebrated their win after Beckham's final game in Major League Soccer.

"We were telling David that we wanted him for one more year," said defender Todd Dunivant. "We said that last year too and we got it, so why not push our luck a little bit? We will see what happens."

Beckham, however, has been adamant that now is the right time for him to end his time as a player in MLS and enjoy one more challenge, with so far an unnamed team, before returning to MLS in an ownership role.

His coach Bruce Arena said he was sure the former England captain, who has won league titles in his homeland with Manchester United and in Spain with Real Madrid before two titles with Galaxy, would find success.

"Many would think it is the last chapter, I think David thinks there is another chapter and if there is it is probably going to be another great championship," he said.

But while Beckham's passing, set-pieces and influence on his Galaxy team-mates have all been ingredients in the past six years that have pleased Arena, it has been the midfielder's off field impact which has delighted many in the States.

"Twenty years from now we are going to look at this league and still talk about David Beckham as the one who helped turn us," said Arena.

Former U.S. national team goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who played in England, Spain and Germany before returning home and playing in MLS for the Seattle Sounders, said Beckham had been exactly what the North American league needed.

"It was at a time when the league needed something to give it a big global kick-start and there wasn't a bigger global personality in the game than David Beckham," he told Reuters.

"It just made the league relevant, made people take notice and because of that other teams were able to step up."

The league has enjoyed rising attendances during Beckham's six years, while is also witnessed the arrival of other high profile internationals such as France's Thierry Henry and Ireland's Robbie Keane.

Keane believes Beckham's move to the States handed the league the credibility needed to attract players of his ilk.

"He has been fantastic for this league," said Keane.

"He has put MLS on the map and made players like myself want to come over and play here because the league has grown massively. That's in a huge part down to David.

"We are certainly going to miss him but I am so happy we have sent him off with a championship."

Beckham said it was for others to discuss his legacy to the North American league.

"I just hope I've brought a bit of interest to the game. When I decided to come here, I raised some interest and if that is the single thing that I have done then great," Beckham said.

"I think the foundations are there now in this league, it is a 17-year-old league and it will continue to grow."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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