When a shaggy-haired, 18-year-old Kyle Beckerman first took the field as a professional on July 15, 2000, he shared a Miami Fusion locker room with World Cup veterans and rising youngsters that would make longstanding impacts in Major League Soccer for years to come. He trained every day with players who after retirement would move into General Manager and Head Coach roles – including Garth Lagerwey and Jeff Cassar, who served in those positions with Real Salt Lake later in his career.
On October 28, 2020, when he suited up for Real Salt Lake for the last time, he included five players as teammates who were not yet born when he made his debut 20 years earlier. In a long and winding journey that extended longer than any player in MLS history, he set the standard for longevity, but it took far more than just a will to continue and the fortune of good health to smash records in the MLS annals and extend them far beyond reach.
He has seen the league evolve from its fledgling early days to its accelerated rise with the arrival of some of the world’s biggest stars to where it is today, continuously growing and evolving. A league that had 12 teams in 2000 has blossomed to 26 in 2020 with four more scheduled to start play within the next three seasons.
After 498 career regular-season appearances, spanning 21 seasons, Kyle Beckerman – an icon in the league, one of the 25 Greatest Players in league history and RSL’s captain and heartbeat for 14 seasons – announced his retirement. While his records as a field player – 498 games played, 461 games started and 41,164 minutes played – aren’t likely to be broken anytime soon, they go a long way to show his talent and leadership, his grit and guile, and his will and determination.
It was evident from his first day in RSL colors back in 2007 when he came in a midseason trade with the Colorado Rapids.
“He came and with him came this air of combativeness and competitiveness that he added immediately to the very first training session he was in,” said former RSL player and Head Coach Jason Kreis.
Added then-assistant coach Robin Fraser, “It’s a very infectious enthusiasm that he has. It’s the only way he knows how to train and the only way he knows how to play.”
He has shared a field with eight players from the FIFA FIFPro World XI and the nine-time MLS All-Star has never felt out of place on that field.
“To have played for the amount of time that he has and to have seen so many changes within the league, but to consistently have been playing throughout that time, he’s an inspirational figure for this club,” said retired RSL defender Nedum Onuoha. “For the players around him, he sets the tone as a good example.”
He took the game’s biggest stage at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and helped power the U.S. National Team through the “Group of Death” with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, starting all three Group Stage matches.
He embodied and defined what it meant to don an RSL kit and has become synonymous with the club itself. A four-time club MVP, he helped elevate Real Salt Lake into the collective consciousness of the region with a connection built through his on-field performance and everyman approachability in the community.
“He’s the heart of this club not just for how long he’s been here, but for the way he trains, the way he plays and leaves his heart out on the field,” RSL midfielder Albert Rusnàk said. “He played the game the right way.”
Longtime teammate with RSL, the U.S. National Team and the Miami Fusion Nick Rimando agreed.
“Kyle is a captain that led by example. He is someone that gave it his all,” he said. “He had a relationship with everybody in the locker room. He was the hardest working guy there. He was someone that put it in every day in training and in the games and made the team better.”
During his tenure, RSL rose to become one of the elite teams in the league, driving newfound recognition for the way the club played the game. That was spearheaded by Beckerman, who led RSL to the 2009 MLS Cup title and finals in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, 2013 MLS Cup and 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“He’s just a remarkable player and had a remarkable career. He’s always been resilient and indominable. He’s just a force that was borderline irresistible and that’s what it took at RSL to win MLS Cup and play in the Champions League final,” said former RSL General Manager Garth Lagerwey. “If you didn’t believe in yourself more than other people did, then you weren’t going to make it.”
Beckerman’s leadership was the cornerstone around which RSL’s most successful run was built. With him leading the charge, Real Salt Lake went from bottom-feeders to perennial powers.
He’s an icon. A legend. RSL’s forever captain.
Kreis summed it up as well as anyone.
“I just have a tremendous amount of respect for everything Kyle has brought to the team and to the club, to the city of Salt Lake and the state of Utah.”