One of the most iconic pillars of the Real Salt Lake organization, and Major League Soccer in general, is calling it a career after 21 years.
On Monday, Kyle Beckerman announced his retirement from professional soccer, ending a run that saw him become MLS’ all-time leader in regular-season games played (498), games started (461) and minutes played (41,164) among field players.
Less than two weeks ago, those efforts earned him a spot on The 25 Greatest, a list of the best players in MLS history as the league celebrates a quarter century of existence this year.
Yes, Beckerman has been in the league for nearly its entirety, and the two in many ways have grown up together. Beckerman began his career as an 18-year-old with the Miami Fusion in 2000 only to see that franchise have to fold in 2002. Then it was to the Colorado Rapids for a few seasons before he was traded to RSL in 2007.
“This state and city, I became a man here,” he said during a Zoom press conference with reporters. “It’s where I really matured, it’s where I found my wife (Kate), it’s where my son (2-year-old Constantine) was born. It’s a place where at first I didn’t know too much about and couldn’t imagine that my wife was here and a kid would be born here, but I knew that they had a really good fan base.”
Beckerman said it was that fan base which fueled him, goalkeeper Nick Rimando (another honoree on MLS’ 25 best list) and the rest of the club to want to work toward the ultimate goal of winning an MLS Cup, which they did in 2009, with Beckerman as captain.
“I think we just saw the goodness of this blank page with fans ready to erupt, and they’ve been so supportive of us,” he said, adding that the title provided “a sense of validation” for what had been building.
In all, Beckerman played 14 seasons for RSL and was named an MLS All-Star nine times. He also tallied 58 caps for the U.S. National Team, including at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
He said that during a recent conversation with his wife, he noted that “As you’re going through it, you don’t really have much time to sit back and look at what you’ve done,” but even now, the notion of leaving behind a big legacy is hard to fathom because he was just trying to do his best each day.
“It isn’t something you aim for,” he said. “I just was trying to get ready for the next day and be a good teammate the next day, be a good teammate the next game. I felt like soccer, especially being around for so long and seeing the growth and popularity of the sport, a lot of responsibility was felt at least for myself and a lot players, that we had a responsibility to help grow the game.”
On Twitter Monday, MLS commissioner Don Garber wrote, “Kyle Beckerman’s contributions to our League and Real Salt Lake have been legendary. On the field he’s one of the League’s 25 best. And his impact off the field has been enormous. Tight lines, Kyle! Best to you and your family in your post-playing career...”
Added Rimando in part, “My brother congratulations on a unbelievable career. I will cherish all the memories on and off the field with you. A true warrior on the pitch and gentleman off. Welcome to retirement my CAP.”
Now as he moves to the next phase of his life, the 38-year-old Beckerman said on multiple occasions Monday that he feels he was able to soak in the final few years of his career because he didn’t know when the end would be, so he feels closure.
“Just talking with my family and just figuring out what’s next, when we decided that this was right, it felt right,” he said. “I didn’t find it that hard.”
Beckerman’s not entirely sure what’s next, but he said he’ll certainly consider coaching and being a part of the RSL organization in whatever capacity may arise.
“I definitely want to help in any way I can help get Salt Lake back up to fighting for everything for sure,” he said.
In a statement, RSL GM Elliot Fall said, “There aren’t words to describe the impact Kyle has had on our club, MLS, and this community. When you think of Real Salt Lake, you think of Kyle Beckerman. He is a legend. There will never be another like him. This is the end of an era, but I’m sure the next chapter from Kyle will be special as well. That’s the kind of person he is.”
Until that next chapter gets sorted out, Beckerman said he’s excited to be able to spend more time with Kate and Constantine.
“I have energy and passion and effort I’ve given to the game,” he said. “I’m really excited now to be able to give that to my family.”