LeBron on MLS Miami expansion talks: “We’re working on it”

LebronJamesDavidBeckham1 (Getty)

By FRANCO PANIZO

A week filled with expansion news received a little more on Wednesday night.

According to a report from Sports Illustrated, NBA star LeBron James spoke out again about his MLS Miami expansion discussions with fellow global icon David Beckham following the Miami Heat’s win in Orlando. James said he and Beckham are continuing their dialogue about potentially owning a team in South Florida, but that there is still plenty to do in order to make it happen.

”I wish it was easy,” said James, who is a minority owner of Premiership club Liverpool. ”We’re working on it. We’ll see what happens.”

”I think the passion is the No. 1 thing,” James later added when asked why he finds soccer appealing. ”The passion that the fans have about the game of soccer, it’s pretty intense. It’s pretty awesome. I had an opportunity to go to a game in England and it was an unbelievable experience. It’s a world-renowned sport.”

James’ latest comments came a day after MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed that the league has interest in possibly returning to Miami. Garber, while talking to media following the official expansion announcement of Orlando City, said having another team in the region was important, and that he was convinced a club in Miami could succeed if it had the right ownership group and a downtown stadium.

MLS formerly had the Miami Fusion, but removed the club as well as the Tampa Bay Mutiny back in 2001.

Beckham has been in Miami in recent months to explore stadium sites for a potential team. The former midfielder can buy an MLS expansion franchise at a discounted rate of $25 million and is expected to do so in the near future.

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What do you think of James’ latest comments? Fully expecting Beckham and James to bring an MLS club back to Miami? Still don’t think a Miami team is a good idea?

Share your thoughts below.

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49 Responses to LeBron on MLS Miami expansion talks: “We’re working on it”

  1. Dimidri says:

    Here’s the thing about Miami-if it works, the reward is greater than any other city vying for expansion. Having people like Lebron and Beckham can uniquely (in Miami) help minimize the risk.

    • bbstl says:

      This! I think that a lot of people undrvalue the draw that Miami is to professional athletes. Yes, the fan base is weak, but it has more upside than any other market that doesn’t have a team.

      Also, when the original Miami team folded, people often forget how close the entire league was to folding at that time. The league was basically being propped up by Lamar Hunt and a few others.

      • Ian says:

        That’s only sort of correct. The league in general wasn’t doing great in the late 90s/early 00s, but Miami and Tampa Bay were shambolic. Yes, the Hunts and AEG propped up the league, but the Florida teams were a logical choice for contraction.
        link to en.wikipedia.org

        • franco says:

          And that’s only sort of correct too. Miami and Tampa Bay weren’t any more shambolic w/regard to attendance than Kansas City and to an extent San Jose. You can say they were a logical choice for contraction based on their ownership but if based on attendance then Kansas City should have been contracted first. Oh but that couldn’t happen since the Hunts still owned KC. Unfortunately for Miami and Tampa Bay, their ownership situation wasn’t as solid as KC.

        • bbstl says:

          I agree. I was just trying to say that we often forget just how far the league has come from just 10-12 years ago.

      • go euro or go home says:

        not to mention that this is as much about tv exposure as anything else. miami, especially combined with becks and people like lebron in the picture, is a perfect market for expansion. people will be interested in this team, and i am talking mainly about people outside of miami.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Not necessarily, Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan was supposed to fix that and hasn’t.

      I don’t think people care, or at least care for very long, whether the owner is a sports figure. They’re not playing.

      What they care about is the quality of the product and where they have to go to watch it. I think the owner is an indirect consideration related to whether they feel like he’s (a) committed to the city and (b) bringing in sufficient talent. If fans think the team won’t last or the talent stinks, they will flee.

      Miami had basically the best team in MLS at the end and still couldn’t sustain the business franchise around it. Unlike even Orlando, there is no uptick in the minor league attendance reflecting a fan movement behind MLS. It’s some big names in an ownership group in search of a stadium and a fan base.

      I’m also skeptical of Orlando but at least they can argue that the carrot of MLS has motivated increased crowds to show, kind of like the Cascade teams before their “promotion.”

      • Ryan in NYC by way of NC says:

        To be fair, as a North Carolina native…. next year we’ll see a completely different team once the name is changed BACK to the Hornets. So the MJ experience hasn’t flopped yet.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          I don’t see how changing the name back to what it was under Shinn fixes the damage Shinn did, which the new team plus Jordan hasn’t fixed. It used to be a good team and well attended. Once a lame duck as the Hornets attendance plummeted and they remain 24th as the new Bobcats, 15K in a league where many teams pull 18K.

          The jury may be somewhat out on Jordan but my argument is that a celebrity sports owner is not the same thing as attractive players and team, or an excited fan base. People might come to one game to see LeBron & Beckham’s toy, to see them walk around. For them to stay the team has to be good.

          I mean, people watched the Galaxy for Beckham et al. The players. They don’t care who Anschutz is but they sure like the quality of players he will pay for.

          • franco says:

            The jury isn’t somewhat out on Jordan. The verdict was rendered ages ago. He is a crap owner and just as bad a GM.

            To our knowledge, Becks won’t be GM and as long as he hires the right people to get the right personnel for his team and have the personnel produce on the field then the fanbase will be there to support his team.

          • Ryan in NYC by way of NC says:

            You’ll see…. that NAME the Hornets means a lot to the city. They’ll be in playoffs next year and will be one of the league leaders in attendance once again… Mark my words

            • Joe Timbres says:

              Ha!!! Meant a crap ton when you traded Kobe for Elden bleeping Campbell. That attendance when down the crapper despite 3-4-5 seed seasons. That market having an NBA team again is a travesty after the heists done to KC and Cincy to get the Royals now Kings to Tent City/Flea Market ville in Cow Town.

        • Riggity says:

          Lmfao, woooooow Ryan in NY bla bla, a completely different team next year in Charlotte??? I’m sorry but you have to be on drugs to really believe that.

          • Jay says:

            As someone who also lives in Charlotte he is right 100%. If you don’t live here you don’t you don’t understand the politics and issues with the team. So he is right when he says the name change will make things different he is right.

    • THomas says:

      You’re right. Having two of the most recognizable athletes, Beckham outside the US and Lebron in the US, teaming up for an MLS franchise is pure genius.

      • Riggity says:

        Yes, it’s a good idea, but that doesn’t make it a slam dunk as far as success. They need a great team as well, Miami is a terrible sports town as far as fans go. The U’s attendance is terrible, as well as the Marlins. And if the Heat didn’t have the greatest player on the planet right now the stands would be empty all game instead of for the first quarter.

    • Travis in Miami says:

      Yep :)

  2. Increase says:

    There is little risk for Beckham. He basically has MLS stock options. The moment he buys that team the value doubles. The worst MLS team is easily worth more than double on the market.

    I would say this means He might not try to succeed as much but… what else is he gunna do now that he is retired?

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      A cynical person might argue that if many MLS teams are worth more than $100 million — per the recent article — a 25 million option is a flippable asset with potential high inherent ROI. If he has the right to sell out later, then he could flip a 25 million franchise for 400-500% return…..as long as it stays viable enough it’s not folded. The purchaser could then keep the team in Miami or move it to San Antonio or where-ever.

      But to flip the team it has to be “activated” first.

      • Ian says:

        I find that highly unlikely — but who knows.

      • go euro or go home says:

        except for that he wants to own a team and he wants it to be in miami. maybe he could get chivas thrown in the deal though — 2 for 1.

      • Riggity says:

        I suppose him selling the club a little down the line is definitely possible, but with the rate of growth that the MLS has shown the last 5 years I think it would be a terrible decision to sell quickly. Let’s be honest, Becks doesn’t need the money, this franchise could be worth $400-500 in 10-15 years.

  3. Dos says:

    a vanity project in a historically weak market for professional sports across all genres, I don’t see what could go wrong here.

    • yankiboy says:

      This project might end up being different. It might be successful. Especially if J Ames can use his leverage to help get a stadium deal done down there.

      I’m not so quick to write this off as just some rich guys looking for their latest toy…

    • Brain Guy says:

      Spot on. This is a textbook example of throwing good money after bad. I don’t care if Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, and Dan Marino come on board. No amount of glitz can make up for apathetic or absent fans.

  4. Dembababa says:

    Is that Oguchi to the right? Is he trying to get in on this too?? ;)

  5. NAT says:

    24 MLS teams by 2020

    Orlando is 21. Miami will be 22.

    who will be 23/24? Atlanta? St. Louis? San Antonio? Minnesota? A 4th Canadian team?

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Yay NASL!

    • Derek says:

      ORL 21
      MIA 22
      ATL 23
      IND 24
      CHV -> SA

      • yankiboy says:

        Your’re more eager to get Indy into MLS than the powerbrokers behind the NASL side Indy Eleven who are on record as not thinking that the necessarily need MLS to be first division (sipping some of that hallucinogenic NASL Kool-Aide)…

    • Ian says:

      It needs to be a southern city so MLS can flip to the European calendar. I get the impression there’s a real desire to do so on Garber’s part, but it’s logistically impossible when only a handful of cities are in hospitable climates during December-March.

      After Orlando and Miami, I’d bet on San Antonio and Atlanta.

      • Steve says:

        I do believe that 3 of 4 franchises for the 24 by 2020 goal are set, with those being Orlando, Miami and Atlanta. The 24th franchise is up for grabs. Most fans believe its between Minnesota, San Antonio, Indianapolis and Sacramento. But don’t be surprised if a dark horse candidate emerges in Austin. From what I understand the league likes what their see in San Antonio, but loves the demographics of Austin. They may bet on fans from San Antonio supporting a team in Austin were their is no competition for the professional sports dollar and its the fastest growing city in the nation. Otherwise I think the owners what to see something come out of St. Louis. Either way I don’t think this team is slated to take the field till most likely 2018 or 2019. With this in mind there’s how I see it.

        NYC & Orlando – 2015
        Miami – 2016
        Atlanta – 2017
        Austin/San Antonio or St. Louis – 2019

        Also with the addition of Chivas USA relocated to either Sacramento or San Diego.

  6. James says:

    Anyone else notice that this is perhaps the most feminine handshake of all time? Looks like Beckham is supposed to kiss Lebron’s hand

  7. Rex says:

    This winter, David Beckham joins Lebron James in… THE DECISION!

  8. Landon Klinsman says:

    I think that, at the last minute, Lebron will take his talents back to the NBA and pull the rug out from under Becks.

  9. chuck says:

    wow “I went to one game and it was awesome”. Really inspiring confidence with his in-depth knowledge of the game.

    • blokhin says:

      did you know that soccer is a “world-renowned” sport? I mean, I barely have even heard of it

      • Landon Klinsman says:

        Lebron is from Akron, OH. Prior to the Zips rising to national prominence, the town of Akron had little to do with competitive soccer at any level. So, I understand why Lebron sees the sport through that lens. There is not much else I understand about Lebron and I hope that he is maturing as a businessman since his “decision.”

        • wood chip zip says:

          Completely wrong. That area of Ohio has a very rich soccer history. That’s what happens when you mix landon with klinsman

  10. Andrew says:

    At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who owns the team. It depends on the product/fan experience.

    • Neruda says:

      Exactly. Beckham/Miami with no evidence of a fan base so far is grabbing headlines but where’s the headline about Miami soccer fans?

      Orlando is only going to build off their existing success and identity. It will be interesting to see the difference between a pop-up franchise like NYCFC and a pre-brewed club like Orlando City SC.

  11. el paso tx says:

    I love what is going on with expansion in mls and nasl and uslpro, but the question is, if nycfc can join powers with mancity and yankees, why doesn’t claure, beckham go recruit owners from manu or bayern munich
    MLS needs to feed off from this new ownership groove going on in mls. If i was claure and becks, i would go ask the american owners of manu or even barcelona owners.
    Imagine pele and manU teaming up with cosmos, that would be amazing.
    Another thing, what happen to VSI tampa bay making a soccer stadium and retractable.
    As for expansion, i do think mls wants the international schedule and they will get miami, atlanta, sacramento or san antonio, besides orlando, but if a cold market wants to join mls, i think the stadium will be a decision factor.
    Oh, but will xhivas usa survive mls future plans, i dont think so.

  12. el paso tx says:

    By the way, whichever markets MLS select, besides orlando, miami, atlanta and #24, Nasl is going to end up with a buffet of markets, since MLS will stop at 24 teams for now.
    Therefore Nasl is going to be able to grow just like MLS, with open markets like= san diego, san francisco, phoenix, boise, eugene, austin, albuquerque, okc, birmingham, tennessee, nc,sc, detroit, baltimore, omaha, st.louis, LA, fort worth, louisville, cleveland, iowa,milwaukee.
    As for uslpro, they can get all the midtown markets and make conferences with divisions and Nasl needs conference like MLS as soon as possible.