In regards to U.S. professional Soccer development, from recognition to acceptance, Beckham is Pelé's equal.
If David Beckham never made another goal in MLS, it wouldn't matter. He has surpassed hopes. His mission is accomplished.
While it would be horrible and a hard pill to swallow if Beckham was to get hurt and not be able to play again or play to his same abilities (knock on wood), his contribution to boost the MLS profile and pro Soccer in the U.S. is a story of fulfilled expectations that very few athletes can claim.
He has carried the sport for a while. He was fortunate because he had America's sacred one, the legend, Landon Donovan, with him for the ride. Donovan has been Beckham's branding partner with the Galaxy, just as Pelé had Beckenbauer with the New York Cosmos.
Beckham is an MLS champion and has made Soccer in the U.S. more exciting to watch.
Pelé scored more goals and won more championships than Beckham, but the effect they've had on the game in the U.S. is basically equal.
Comparing what Pelé brought to the NASL of the 1970's to the rise of MLS over the last 6 seasons concludes similarly. Both leagues are on a significant upswing.
They are very different players.
Pelé's skills were more shifty and dynamic. He seemed to play in the air. He used his head a lot, dribbled through defenses and was known for the bicycle kick.
Beckham makes pin-point long range passes and long range goals. He is most known for his benders on set pieces, including the rarest of banana kick corners.
Beckham has benefited from the timing of Seattle's and Portland's entrance into the league. This was in full effect in the most recent match between LA and the Timbers in Portland on July 14th.
A match in Portland is like no other. The scene is distinct because the crowd is so faithful to the sport.
Beckham's job is done. After his match in Portland (two goals and an assist), any other goals or assists made in 2012 and beyond is just gravy. The Portland game was more proof to add to other great MLS Beckham performances.
If MLS fails as the NASL did later in the 80's, it won't be David Beckham's fault, just as it wasn't Pelé's fault.