By FRANCO PANIZO
While most observers in the American soccer world had their attentions fixed on the U.S. Men’s National Team this past weekend, some intriguing news related to MLS expansion surfaced and it could potentially mean the return of MLS to Miami.
Two days after attending a Miami Heat playoffs game with Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure (pictured above, left), the recently-retired David Beckham continued to look into the possibility of bringing an MLS team to South Florida on Saturday. Beckham met with key political figures in Miami and even toured two stadiums, 20,000-seat FIU Stadium and 75,000-seat Sun Life Stadium, that could possibly serve as the home to a future MLS club in South Florida.
Beckham told reporters afterwards that the prospect of owning an MLS team in Miami was “exciting”. The contract he signed with MLS and the LA Galaxy back in 2007 came with an option to purchase an expansion franchise at a reduced price reported to be $25 million once he retired.
“I think bringing an MLS team here to South Florida would be… it’s exciting,” Beckham told CBS4 News television. ”I think Miami fans are very passionate about their sports and very passionate about winning and, of course, it would have to be (a) success but it’s definitely exciting.”
Beckham was accompanied on Saturday by Claure, the owner of Brightstar Communications who partnered with Spanish club FC Barcelona in 2009 for a Miami MLS expansion bid that ultimately failed. Claure remains interested in bringing an MLS team back to South Florida, where NASL club the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers play but where there has been no MLS team since the Miami Fusion were contracted in 2001.
Miami is believed to be one of many cities Beckham is considering as a potential site for an MLS team, though the former England international has yet to visit or publically mention any city besides Miami.
“We know that our community can support not only the international soccer (friendlies) that have been coming to Miami for a while now, but that it would support an MLS franchise,” executive director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission Jose Sotolong told Reuters. ”The city of Miami has a very international fan base and a very soccer savvy fan base. This is the kind of ownership group that would electrify the community and hopefully we will get good news.”
Miami is not the only city in the Sunshine State currently hoping to land an MLS expansion team. USL Pro side Orlando City SC has been pushing hard in recent years to try and secure a franchise in the United States’ top soccer league, which will expand to 20 teams in 2015 with the addition of the recently-announced New York City FC.
MLS commissioner Don Garber recently named Florida as a place for possible expansion during his meetings with media following the NYCFC press conference in East Harlem. He has also previously pointed to rivalries like that in the Pacific Northwest being a big part of MLS’s success when talking about expansion in the south, which may indicate that both Miami and Orlando could get into the league at some point in the future.
What do you think of Beckham exploring Miami as a potential destination for MLS expansion? Like the idea of a Beckham-backed team in Miami? Wishing he were checking out another city?
Share your thoughts below.