He won't play in this year's World Cup because of an injury, but the Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham is still a force, especially in the U.S., where he has helped lift soccer's profile. Here's his take.
What's the state of the American game?
It's the best it's been for a while. The success of the U.S. team is huge, and its success in the World Cup is going to be big as well. If they can have a good World Cup, it makes more of America interested in the sport. It has changed over the years. There are more people getting interested in it, although it's still not to the level of everywhere else in the world.
What about the quality of play?
When I first moved [to the U.S.], everyone talked about the standard being really low, but from the moment I started playing, I realized that it's really good. The facilities are great. The team this year especially proved it, and last year we went all the way, apart from losing the final. The standard of play has also gotten higher. That shows with players like Gooch [Oguchi Onyewu] going to Milan and Landon [Donovan, his L.A. teammate] going to Everton.
What has to get better?
There are certain franchises within the league that excel in most areas, to be honest, like European clubs. Look at Seattle, Toronto their fan base is pretty incredible and Philly as well. Certain things have to change, and gradually they will. [But] the money that there is here in soccer just doesn't even compare to what there is in Europe.
When will we see other star players like you on the field?
The next couple of years, there will be other big players and big names from Europe coming over. That will happen. People are going to be surprised by some of the names that will be here even next season.
The U.S. plays England in its first group match. What do you think?
If we were to come up against the U.S., same game, 10 years ago, people would have been like, "Oh, that's going to be easy." Now, times change. I know it's a cliché, but there is no easy game now in soccer. And this game is going to prove it. Because the U.S. has got talent on the team, the expectation is huge. And rightly so in many ways. Because we've got one of the best football leagues in the world, if not the best, and we've got some of the best players in the world playing in this sport.