Still going strong with Real Salt Lake, central midfield terrier Kyle Beckerman celebrates a milestone 35th birthday on Sunday. Known for his iconic dreadlocks and tireless work effort in the middle of the park, Beckerman has been in the U.S. Soccer consciousness since manning the midfield for the U-17 MNT in their fourth-place finish at the 1999 World Championships in New Zealand.
Half a lifetime later, we take a photographic look at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup champion and key piece of the USA’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad.Long before his dreads, future MNT midfielder Kyle Beckerman showed he had style…
Growing up in Bowie, Md., Beckerman began playing club soccer with the Bowie Bulldogs.
Outside of games and organized training sessions, he would often come home from school and leave notes for his parents telling them he was out playing pick-up games, signing them as “Kyle Beckerman, USA #15” because as he says, “That’s what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a National Team player. I made up my mind back then.”
As he progressed in his club career, he continued to wear No. 15 for the Laurel Wildcats…
…before working his way through the Olympic Development Program to be a part of the inaugural U-17 MNT Residency Class in 1999.
Beckerman joined the likes of Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and Bobby Convey in the U-17 MNT program in Bradenton, Fla., qualifying for the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Once in New Zealand, Beckerman appeared in each of the team’s six matches and even tallied the game-winning goal in the USA’s 3-2 Quarterfinal victory against Mexico.
Painstakingly, the U.S. fell to Australia 7-6 on penalty kicks in the Semifinal before dropping a 2-0 result to Ghana in the Third-Place Match.
After leaving Residency and graduating high school, Beckerman signed with the M.L.S. in 2000 and was allocated to the Miami Fusion. The 18-year-old scored his first professional goal in only his second match, tallying in a 6-2 win against D.C. United on Sept. 9, but would only play five total games for the club in two seasons.
Due to his limited playing time, we don’t have a photo of Kyle’s time in Miami. After the decision was made to contract the franchise in early 2002, Beckerman was chosen by the Colorado Rapids in that year’s M.L.S. Dispersal Draft.
Beckerman found his professional footing in Denver, growing into a consistent contributor by 2003 and a feared force in central midfield during the next few years. Mostly out of the National Team picture during that time, he came back into the spotlight in January 2007, earning his first U.S. Men’s National Team cap as he replaced Rapids teammate Pablo Mastroeni in the MNT’s 3-1 friendly win against Denmark.
Bob Bradley then summoned Beckerman for that summer’s Copa America in Venezuela, where he made appearances in a 4-1 defeat to Argentina and 1-0 loss against Colombia.
A week after the tournament, Beckerman returned stateside to find he’d been traded to Real Salt Lake. The 2005 expansion club had struggled mightily through its first two-and-a-half seasons, but new head coach Jason Kreis sought out the 25-year-old midfielder as a significant piece in his project to rebuild from the first few years.
The following season, RSL sneaked into the M.L.S. Cup Playoffs where they fell 1-0 to New York Red Bulls in the Western Conference Final.
Beckerman’s play that season led to his first extended run with the MNT, as called on the midfielder for the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Appearing in all six matches, Beckerman scored his first and only international goal, a beautiful half-volley to equalize in the 49th minute of the USA’s 2-1 extra time win vs. Panama in the Quarterfinals.
Fresh off his run in the Gold Cup, Beckerman received his first World Cup Qualifying appearance that September before leading RSL to an incredible turnaround that fall as they stunned Columbus Crew SC, Chicago Fire and eventually the LA Galaxy to hoist the 2009 M.L.S. Cup.
Beckerman received scant call-ups the next 18 months, at one point admitting, “For a while, the National Team was really done for me, and I didn’t think it was going to come back.”
Nearly two years after lifting M.L.S. Cup, Beckerman returned in 2011 and began to grasp a regular role with the U.S. MNT.
In 2012, he was part of the U.S. side that earned an historic 1-0 friendly win against Mexico at Estadio Azteca…
And the following year even captained the U.S. for the first time in a January Camp friendly against Canada.
That summer, he took part in his second CONCACAF Gold Cup…
…where he played in five of six matches as the U.S. won its fifth confederation championship.
Beckerman also stepped in for the injured Michael Bradley as the U.S. clinched qualification to the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a 2-0 win against Mexico on Sept. 10, 2013 in Columbus.
Fifteen years after first representing the U.S. at the U-17 World Cup in New Zealand, Beckerman earned a place on the MNT roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
And just as he signed each note he left for his parents, he wore the No. 15 shirt for the U.S. in Brazil.
Appearing in all three of the USA’s Group Stage matches, Beckerman put in workman-like performances doing what he’d always done – gumming up the works for passes through midfield while continually frustrating opponent’s star attackers.
Though the U.S. fell 1-0 to World Cup champions Germany in their final group game, Beckerman earned Man of the Match honors as the MNT advanced to the Knockout Round.
Since the World Cup, Beckerman continued to help the U.S. Men’s National Team both in 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying…
… at the 2016 Copa America Centenario…
…and has continued to do his thing for Real Salt Lake.
In 2016, he moved past Brad Davis for most appearances by a field player in M.L.S. history. As of writing, his 412 M.L.S. appearances place him third all-time behind only goalkeepers Kevin Hartman (416) and RSL and MNT teammate Nick Rimando (430).
Anyway, here’s to you Kyle Beckerman. Have a great 35th birthday.