His international career for England is all but over. It remains to be seen how much he'll have left for the Galaxy and Major League Soccer.
"He will miss the World Cup for sure," a person familiar with the injury told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. The person said it was likely the 34-year-old midfielder will play again.
Beckham was injured without getting hit during AC Milan's 1-0 Italian League win over visiting Chievo Verona.
With only a few minutes remaining and the score 0-0, Beckham was by himself with the ball at his feet, shifted his weight and reached a hand down to his left heel. Beckham then stood up and snapped his wrists like he was breaking a twig in half in a gesture to show the AC Milan bench he knew the tendon was broken.
Visibly in pain and in tears, Beckham went to the sideline for medical attention, leaving Milan a man short because all three substitutes had been used.
"He felt the muscle begin to come up, which is a typical symptom when you break an Achilles' tendon," Milan coach Leonardo told Sky. "This is a real blow."
Sky reported that Beckham said, 'It's broken, it's broken," when he came off.
Club physician Jean Pierre Meersseman told Italy's Sky TV that Beckham will fly to Finland, where he will be treated by specialist surgeon Dr. Sakari Orava.
"He'll go to Finland tomorrow and will be operated on probably tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday morning," Meersseman said.
While Beckham has not been a starter for England in recent matches, he was likely to make the World Cup roster as a reserve and looked forward to the high-profile June 12 matchup against the United States — and Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan. Although no longer a top player, Beckham was still useful for his free kicks and crosses, especially when England needed second-half goals.
And for many, he was the most-known soccer player in the world, a fashion icon with a celebrity wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. A 2002 movie was even named after him, "Bend it Like Beckham."
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star was on his second loan stint to AC Milan from Los Angeles Galaxy as he looked to boost his chances of making England coach Fabio Capello's 23-man World Cup roster. With no chance to play in the World Cup, his international career is likely over after 17 goals and 115 appearances, second in English history behind only goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125 matches from 1970-90.
Beckham was England's captain from November 2000 through the 2006 World Cup. He was due back with the Galaxy after the World Cup.
"He'll probably be out for five or six months," AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani told Sky. "I saw him really suffering. In the changing room I hugged him and told him that if he wants he can join us next year, too."
It was yet another blow for Major League Soccer, already facing the threat of a players' strike ahead of the season opener on March 25. Beckham is the league's highest-paid player with a $32.5 million, five-year contract and its biggest draw.
"We just received the information about David's unfortunate injury," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "We wish him a speedy recovery."
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said it was too early to tell exactly how long Beckham will be out. He didn't want to discuss the impact the injury would have on Los Angeles' season. He wouldn't blame the injury on the loan.
"Players get hurt whether they're on loan or not," he said. "Injuries are unfortunately part of the game."
Capello and his England assistant Franco Baldini spoke with Beckham on the telephone to offer best wishes, according to British news agency The Press Association.
In April 2002, Beckham broke a bone in his left foot during a European Champions League game against Spain's Deportivo La Coruna. His injury and recovery were front-page news to fixated England fans.