By FRANCO PANIZO
MIAMI — There is no denying that David Beckham’s future MLS team is going to need star power on the field in order to be successful.
Just how much star power that team will be able to have is something Beckham and his partners will be hoping can increase by the time the team joins MLS.
Current MLS rules only allow teams to have a maximum of three Designated Players on their roster, but Beckham’s business partner, Marcelo Claure, is hoping the league will increase that number to go along with the continued growth and strength of the league.
“In the United States the soccer is growing,” Claure said Wednesday. “There’s more Designated Player roster (slots than ever before) and I think little by little some things are going to be facilitated so that the superstars of the world can look at Miami, MLS as a powerhouse where they will want to play.”
When asked directly whether MLS has made him, Beckham and fellow ownership partner Simon Fuller any assurances about an increase in the number of Designated Players clubs could have, the Bolivian billionaire responded by flatly saying no.
He added, however, that the league’s growth suggests that such a scenario could play out by the time Miami enters the league in 2017.
“We know today there is a certain slot, but we know where the trend is going, so we’re assuming it’s only going to get better and the league is getting better,” said Claure. “You have better TV coverage, it’s a better sport, soccer is growing in America, soccer is growing more and more popular every day here.”
MLS has repeatedly said in recent years that it hopes to be one of the top leagues in the world by 2022.
Here are more notes from Wednesday’s MLS Miami announcement:
BECKHAM NONCOMMITTAL ON LEBRON’S POTENTIAL ROLE
LeBron James joining Beckham’s franchise as a minority owner would seem like a slam dunk given the NBA star’s high profile in South Florida and around the world, but it is anything but guaranteed.
Beckham was asked about James’ possible inclusion as an investor in the expansion Miami club, and was noncommittal in his response. Beckham said it would be a positive to have the Miami Heat star involved in his expansion club, but did not specify if they were still in talks or not.
James, who could opt out of his contract and leave Miami this summer, has previously said he and Beckham have discussed potentially joining forces.
“LeBron is a friend, so we speak as friends about what we’re doing but we’re also speaking as great businessmen,” said Beckham. “If LeBron comes on, then it’ll be amazing because people love him in this city, people love him in sports. He’s not just a great sportsman, but he’s a great man as well and someone that does a lot outside the game as well. To have him in the fold would be a good thing.”
STRIKERS SEE BECKHAM’S ARRIVAL AS POSITIVE
Largely forgotten in all the Beckham-to-Miami hoopla is the impact that the expansion club’s arrival will have on the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. The NASL club is currently struggling to build on the success they showed in their first year back in 2011, and some observers have speculated that Beckham’s team’s arrival will mean the extinction of the Strikers.
Strikers president Tom Mulroy, who was in attendance as Beckham made his announcement on Wednesday, does not see it that way. Instead, Mulroy believes that the buzz Beckham has created will benefit the Strikers, who play about 30 minutes north of Miami in Ft. Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium.
“Anything that is good for soccer is good for us,” Mulroy told SBI. “We’re a soccer franchise, we deal with the soccer community. This many cameras come out to talk about soccer, it’s good for the Strikers, it’s good for the soccer kids that play, the schools.”
Mulroy later added that he believes a rivalry will blossom between the two South Florida clubs and that their close proximity to one another will make it plenty intriguing.
“To us this is the perfect rivalry. Now we have a River-Boca, a Yankees-Mets, whatever your culture is used to having, and there’s a lot of interest here,” said Mulroy as more media gathered around him. “It’s the No. 1 television market in the United States for World Cup when they watch World Cup per capita. There’s kids playing, there’s adults playing, so it just makes sense. It’s a good thing.”
“Again from the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers’ standpoint, having a team next door just makes it more exciting.”
Mulroy also said that the Strikers have not yet had any contact with Beckham.
Do you expect the number of Designated Players each team can have to be raised by the time Miami enters MLS in 2017? Think LeBron james will become an investor of the club? Think the Strikers will survive in South Florida?
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