LA Galaxy’s signing of David Beckham in 2007 revolutionized Major League Soccer, helping draw more eyeballs to North American football than ever before.
The English superstar paved the way for a generation of high-profile players to join MLS but none have quite matched “Goldenballs’” star pulling power.
Javier Hernandez, known across the world as Chicharito, has the potential to make an even bigger impact than Beckham, not only for the Galaxy, but for the league as a whole.
The club reportedly paid $10 million for his services – a huge transfer fee by MLS standards – and will make him the highest paid player in the league on an annual salary reported to be in the region of $6 million.
But the payoff of signing Hernandez could be far greater than any fee or wages LA Galaxy spend on the Mexican superstar.
The 31-year-old is Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer and arguably the nation’s greatest ever player, adored and idolized like few before him.
“Chicharito is an outstanding player,” Mexican Football Federation president Yon de Luisa told CNN.
“He’s the Mexican national team’s leading scorer historically and I am sure he is going to have an outstanding participation here in LA.
“He’s going to develop a magnificent rivalry against Carlos Vela, who is his friend, and they will be playing head-to-head in this civil war in LA,” added De Luisa, referring to Hernandez’s Mexican international teammate who plays for rival Los Angeles FC.
“I really think it’s going to be a good thing for the city, for MLS and for us as well to have Chicharito closer to the national team.”
Hernandez joins MLS at a time that has seen it fall further behind the USA’s two most popular leagues: the Premier League and Mexico’s Liga MX.
According to World Soccer Talk, in 2018 Liga MX drew in 105,636,000 viewers in the US, almost double the Premier League’s total of 62,133,000.
MLS was even further behind with just 31,350,000, giving it the smallest audience growth since 2016 at just 8% – compared to the Premier League’s 69% and Liga MX’s 46%.
Hernandez’s addition to the league, then, is likely to pull in a huge numbers of Mexican viewers, both on TV and in stadiums the Galaxy will play in across the country.
According to the United States Census Bureau, almost 37 million of the USA’s 327 million population (11.3%) identified as being of full or partial Mexican origin.
Los Angeles, the home city of the Galaxy, boasts the second largest Hispanic population of all US cities with 1.8 million – behind only New York City’s 2.27 million – making up 48.5% of the total population.
The Mexican national team can also boast far larger attendance figures for its matches in the USA than the USMNT.
Of the 12 international matches played on US soil in 2019, attendance figures totaled 690,554 – an average of 57,546 per game – according to Goal.
Meanwhile, the USMNT’s average attendance was just 23,306 per game, with the only two matches exceeding 28,000 spectators being clashes against Mexico.
But to suggest the signing of Hernandez is merely a marketing ploy to sell shirts and tickets would be well wide of the mark.
The forward has become a renowned goalscorer, with an impressive record spanning spells at Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen.
LA Galaxy is desperate to win another MLS Cup – the last of its five triumphs came back in 2014 – and the disappointment of last season’s semifinal playoff defeat to city rival Los Angeles FC still lingers.
That local derby, referred to as El Trafico due to the city’s congested roads, also has a tantalizing new narrative for Mexican fans.
The clash will pit Hernandez against fellow national team star and good friend Vela, who has been a revelation since joining the club in its debut MLS season in 2018.
Since the Galaxy lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Italian side AC Milan in the off season, the club has been desperate to find a player to replace his goals.
In Hernandez, they have likely found just that – and much more.