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Beckham's debut could come July 21

Galaxy will play English champion Chelsea that day in Carson as part of four-team tournament.

March 10, 2007|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

David Beckham will apparently make his debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy in a high-profile match against English champion Chelsea at the Home Depot Center in Carson on July 21.

The game will be part of a four-match, four-team tournament that also will feature the Suwon Bluewings of South Korea and Tigres of Monterrey, Mexico, it was announced Friday.

The tournament will be played during Major League Soccer's All-Star break. The first doubleheader, on the night of Tuesday, July 17, will feature the Galaxy playing Tigres, and Chelsea playing the Bluewings. The July 21 games will match the Bluewings against the Tigres in the opener, with the Galaxy and Beckham playing Chelsea in the main event.

Times for the matches have not been set because international television contracts have not been finalized.

"If that's his first game, against Chelsea, that is a world event," Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of AEG, which operates the Galaxy and two other MLS clubs, said Friday in Carson. "We'll have a lot of fun with it."

Much depends on when Beckham gets to town.

"We haven't locked down David's arrival date yet," Leiweke said.

"The Beckham camp keeps on telling me not to make that commitment. But the reality is his season in Real Madrid is going to end probably earlier now, based on where they're standing" in the Spanish league.

Beckham is currently recovering from a knee ligament strain but is expected to be available to Real Madrid within a month.

Beckham's contract with Real Madrid ends June 30, after which the former England national team captain and his family are expected to move from Spain to California.

"And we want to give David time off. That's really the only debate here -- how long does David need to rejuvenate and rev up his engines?" Leiweke said. "So I think it's a pretty good bet that if you look at the Chelsea game, that's the date I think even David has probably circled on his calendar."

If Real Madrid, currently in fourth place, is mathematically eliminated from contention for the Spanish title, it is possible that the club would allow Beckham to leave earlier than June 30 to accommodate his move, but that does not mean he would play for the Galaxy earlier.

"He will not come and play right away," Leiweke said. "He doesn't want to do that."

There is a chance, however, that Beckham could put in a cameo appearance at the MLS All-Star game.

"I know the league would like him to, but I think that's David's decision," Leiweke said. "If he wants to do an appearance, we'll get him in and out of there quickly. But considering our schedule that week, I think it's important that David feels comfortable with his first game."

The four teams in the planned July tournament are linked in several ways.

The Suwon Bluewings, three-time champions of the K-League, feature Korean national team star Ahn Jung-hwan, popularly known as the "David Beckham of Korea."

The club is owned by Korean electronics giant Samsung, which in 2005 signed a lucrative five-year sponsorship deal with Chelsea.

The Galaxy, too, is connected to Chelsea, having entered an agreement a year ago that commits the two-time defending Premier League champion to summer tours of the U.S. every other year, beginning this year.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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