Despite his limited playing time, U.S. TV viewers tuned in to see Beckham bend it

By Sara Hammel
Updated July 25, 2007 09:00 AM

Despite playing for only about 13 minutes in his first game for the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team on Saturday, David Beckham helped draw a record 1.5 million viewers to the TV broadcast.

The count made for the largest audience in the history of cable channel ESPN for a telecast involving a Major League Soccer team, according to Nielsen Media.

Indeed, it wasn’t just the celebrities – including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Eva Longoria and Mary-Kate Olsen – who were fixated on the soccer star’s debut.

Beckham’s American kick-off smashed ESPN’s previous record, set on April 4, 1996, during a match between DC United and San Jose Clash (the League’s first game). That one drew an average of 1.1 million viewers, according to Reuters.

The figures should be welcome news to the Beckhams, who moved from Madrid to L.A. this month with great fanfare – including a splashy, star-studded Welcome to L.A. bash and an NBC documentary about Victoria Beckham‘s move to California, Victoria Beckham: Coming to America.

David also has something else at stake: a 13–part weekly reality series, titled David Beckham’s Soccer USA, from American Idol producer Simon Fuller.

The show is due to premiere Wednesday on the FOX Soccer Channel. And the ratings watch continues.