David Beckham's bid to bring soccer in from the fringes of US sport began amid a burst of confetti and booming rock music on Friday as he took his first bow for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"Soccer can be as big here as it is everywhere around the world, and I'm very proud to be a part of that over the next few years, and maybe a few more years after that," Beckham promised several thousand fans at the Home Depot Center, where the Galaxy rolled out the red carpet for their new star.
That is just what the Galaxy and Major League Soccer were banking on when they engineered the acquisition of Beckham back in January, when Spanish club Real Madrid and England had become disenchanted with the midfielder.
At the time, the deal that could be worth as much as US$250 million including endorsements and merchandising was seen as a move to a football backwater by a player entering the twilight of his career.
Not so, insists Beckham, who has since been recalled to England and helped Real to the Spanish League title.
"I don't see this as a winding down of my career," he said. "I may not be 22 years old anymore, but I am as fit as I was at 22. I am as eager as I was at 14 years old."
Beckham, looking dapper in a grey suit and tie, flashed his grin as he was handed a Galaxy jersey bearing his name and old Real Madrid squad number of 23 -- evoking the spirit of basketball great and Beckham hero Michael Jordan.
He posed for pictures alongside Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas and his new head coach, Frank Yallop, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, Tim Leiweke -- the chief executive and president of the Galaxy's owners AEG -- and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
While Beckham has known for months he was headed Stateside, he showed he still has a few adjustments to make.
"The first thing in my life is always my family," he told the crowd. "The second most important thing has always been foot ... soccer," he said. "Sorry, I'll get used to that, I promise."
Beckham said he hoped to dispel any doubts of his commitment when he makes his Galaxy debut in a friendly against Premiership club Chelsea next Saturday.
"For me it has always been about the football [soccer]. That has always been the reasoning behind every move in my career. It has always been about the football. I'm very proud of what I've done so far," he said. "I've won everything possible in England, I've won a league title now in Spain and I've successfully played for my country for 11 years and captained them for six years."
In addition, Beckham and his pop-star wife, Victoria, have become a staple of the popular press, hobnobbing with an array of stars who include their new Beverly Hills neighbors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
The Beckhams' arrival in Los Angeles with their three sons late on Thursday dominated local news reports on Friday morning and attracted as much coverage in the celebrity magazines and gossip columns as in the sports pages.
That popularity promises the kind of cross-over appeal that MLS officials hope will spark a surge of interest in the sport.
"It's fair to say this is a truly historic day for the sport of soccer in the United States," Garber said. "I can't think of a better player or better man at just the right moment in time to make this happen."