LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - David Beckham's much-hyped American adventure finally began on Thursday night when he and his family touched down at LAX airport before being whisked away in a chauffeured car.
The England midfielder, one of the world's most marketable sports figures, has joined Los Angeles Galaxy from Spanish giants Real Madrid on a lucrative deal that will earn him an estimated $250 million over five years.
Beckham, casually dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt, and his wife Victoria, wearing a black dress and her trademark sunglasses, waved and smiled at a crowd of around 300 crammed outside the airport terminal.
Accompanied by security officials, the celebrity couple did not speak to the fans and made their way down a staircase and on to a barricaded sidewalk before being driven off in a black Lincoln Navigator.
The Beckhams' sons -- Brooklyn, 8, Romeo, 4 and Cruz, 2- years old -- were escorted out of the airport via a different route.
The hype has escalated ever since the January announcement that Beckham was moving to Major League Soccer (MLS) and his hotly anticipated arrival has already given the American game much-needed credibility and plenty of buzz.
Although the former England captain himself has never claimed he can become the savior of U.S. soccer, he is determined to make a difference.
"I'm not silly enough to think I'm going to change the whole culture, because it's not going to happen," Beckham said in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated magazine where he is pictured on the front cover.
"But I do have a belief that soccer can go to a different level, and I'd love to be a part of that. It's not a big brand thing, it's about me being the ambassador for MLS.
"If I can make people more aware and make kids realize that you can go into higher levels and make a great living from playing soccer, that's what I'm going over there to do."
However, Beckham faces an uphill task with his new club who have won only three of their first 12 MLS games this season to languish second bottom in the Western standings.
Rubbing salt into those wounds was Galaxy's failure to reach the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open Cup after losing 1-0 at the lowly Richmond Kickers on Tuesday.
Beckham, 32, will be officially introduced as a Galaxy player on Friday at the team's home stadium in Carson, California.
He is scheduled to report for training the following Monday before making his first appearance for the Galaxy in an exhibition match with FA Cup holders Chelsea on July 21.
(Additional reporting by Dana Ford)