With 2017 the target, Beckham and Claure are bullish about making MLS Miami a hit

David Beckham Marcelo Clauro Miami Heat (Reuters)

By FRANCO PANIZO

MIAMI — David Beckham may have been the man in the spotlight at Wednesday morning’s MLS expansion announcement, but it was Bolivian-born billionaire Marcelo Claure who provided some answers and insight into what will eventually be Major League Soccer’s 22nd team.

Beckham’s new business partner sat somewhat obscurely in the front row at the Perez Art Museum as Beckham took to the stage to discuss his decision to exercise his ownership option. And while Beckham, MLS commissioner Don Garber, and Miami-Dade County commissioner Carlos Gimenez all took turns talking about how exciting it was to bring MLS back to Miami during Wednesday’s glorified pep rally, it was Claure who shared some key details and goals of the project he is ready to fund a good portion of.

Among the more enlightening revelations was Claure’s target for when he wants to launch the new MLS team.

“Three years, three years, 2017. That’s the idea if it all works out like we hope,” said Claure. “I think three years is the objective because we’re creating a soccer team from scratch. We have to pick coaches, we have to involve the community, we have to pick a name, pick a jersey, we have to convince big-name players to come play for us.

“Three years is the minimum amount of time to be able to start a soccer team.”

Wednesday’s announcement officially marks Major League Soccer’s return to the Miami market for the first time since the Miami Fusion were removed by MLS in 2002 due to financial reasons. The Fusion were a Fort Lauderdale-based team that never did capture the imagination of sports fans in Miami, something the Beckham-led project will be hoping to do by putting a team in downtown Miami.

“Everything is different,” Garber said of MLS’ return this market. “The league is different, the country is different, the sport is different, Miami is different. That location (at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale) was wrong, but that wasn’t the only issue there.

“(Fusion owner) Ken Horowitz did as good a job as he possible could, but the sport was not yet mature, the league was really fledgling and trying to figure out what we wanted to be, the country had not yet sort of woken up to how beautiful this game could be. It’s just a different time.”

Claure also touched on why PortMiami was his, Beckham and fellow investor Simon Fuller’s preferred destination, another topic Beckham was not asked about during the opening announcement.

Claure gave several reasons for why the ownership group liked the site, including the fact that it could be easily accessed on foot much like the Seattle Sounders’ fans do during their March to the Match to CenturyLink Field, something that might be required given the lack of land that there is to build parking on in PortMiami.

“It’s close to the arena, there’s parking, it’s a site that has a view of the ocean that few teams in the world have,” said Claure before continuing. “It goes with the (soccer) tradition of being able to walk to the stadium. It’s close to downtown.

“There are a lot of good things, but we are respectful of the fact that it won’t be easy for us to get the city to approve it, so we’re looking at approximately 30 other locations as well.”

While Beckham, Claure and Fuller have looked at other areas in and around South Florida, the plan is for the stadium to be constructed in downtown Miami. MLS teams have had success under the model of downtown stadiums and it is one that the Miami ownership group intends to follow in order to have a shot in a sports market that is known for its fickle and demanding fanbase.

“It’s going to happen downtown,” said Claure. “It might not be at the location we’re looking at now but the soccer has to be played where the fans like to unite before the game, where they can go to a bar before the game. It’s very different from other American sports and that’s why we’re going to try and replicate what other countries have done, what other cities in the U.S. have done, what Seattle has with their March to the Match.

“The other day I sat down with David and we looked at the map of the bridge that connects PortMiami to the city. Imagine thousands of people walking over that bridge to get over to the stadium before a game.”

Claure acknowledged that for the Miami team to capture locals’ attention, it will have to have recognizable big-name players and be a success both on and off the field. It will also need to be more than just a sporting event, which is why Beckham referred to the Miami Heat on multiple occasions during his announcement.

Beckham has previously met with Heat owner Mickey Arison, who in recent years has seen his NBA team draw well not only because they have a star-studded roster that has won championships, but also because the atmosphere at their games is filled with other sources of entertainment. In essence, MLS in Miami needs to be more than just about the match for it to really resonate with the soccer fans in the area.

That’s where the Miami expansion group will be hoping to count on the expertise of one of its key investors.

“Don’t forget that our partner is Simon, and Simon is one of the biggest producers, having founded American Idol, having shown how to connect people,” said Claure. “I think we’re lucky to have a superstar soccer player. … We’re lucky to have Simon, one of the biggest producers in the world, and I’ll contribute my little piece as a businessman to make sure we run this as a business and I’m sure we have a good chance.”

As for the team’s name, both Claure and Beckham stayed relatively mum on the topic, saying that Wednesday’s announcement was the first step in what will be a long marathon. Beckham stated, however, that the ownership group has already given it some thought as to what the colors will be.

“It will have lots to do with Miami, they will be very vibrant colors, which I’m sure people are quite aware of what colors people in Miami love,” said Beckham. “We haven’t exactly decided what colors they’ll be yet, but we have a good idea.”

Choosing a team name is just one of many important decisions Beckham and Claure will have to make in the coming years. Decisions they need to get right to have a strong chance of making pro soccer succeed in Miami, a market where it has failed before. There is an undercurrent of skepticism surrounding the MLS Miami expansion bid because of that history, but the new Miami expansion group is confident of being able to make it work this time around.

“Miami is a place where kids play soccer, so I think when you put all the things together, like anything else in life you’re going to look at the pros and the cons,” said Claure. “I think in this case the pros highly outweigh the cons.”

One of those pros, according to Claure, is that the soccer fans in Miami are more cultured in terms of their knowledge of the game.

“The difference between Miami and other places, in other places you’ve got to go teach the people the sport,” said Claure. “In Miami, you have the people who know the sport but you’ve just got to bring them a good show, you’ve got to bring them a good team. People have shown that if you bring a good team, if you bring a winning team, people will show up.”

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55 Responses to With 2017 the target, Beckham and Claure are bullish about making MLS Miami a hit

  1. Oculus says:

    Marcelo got bank.

  2. kev says:

    24 teams by 2020.

    that leaves either Atlanta or St. Louis or Minnesota or San Antonio for the last 2 spots

    • Bobert says:

      the league won’t get an audience until it fixes its format.

      • JayAre says:

        what about the format needs fixing?

        • Tim says:

          I’m guessing he means the old Relegation/Promotion argument. Won’t happen in the US and in fact I don’t see it lasting in Europe forever. Too much money coming into big clubs they will start to push out the smaller ones and get away from the current system.

          • JayAre says:

            We need to give up that up. I personally think that will lead to match fixing or who really thinks The EPL will let Man Utd go to the championship

          • Bobert says:

            No I wasn’t referring to pro/rel. Although it would be awesome. And I think it will eventually be implemented here 10-15 years down the road.

            I’m talking about the lack of competitiveness and urgency in the regular season due to half the league making playoffs.

            Ex-players (Jimmy Conrad is one) have come out and said that it was obvious that players didn’t play 100% during the regular season and saved themselves for the post-season.

            No one is watching MLS. Why do you think this is? I think it has to do with the format.

            • just saying says:

              promotion/relegation is not the issue here, yes the playoff format sucks but think why they are designed like they are. The reason is that the league is young in this nation of ours is that you want to try and keep your audience captivated as much time as possible. imagine you are a team that is 5th in your respective conference and you missed the playoffs, that drives emotion to the fans already hooked, thus creating more interest. in my opinion you wont see real change in the playoff format until after the 24 teams are set and maybe a few years after. there are vast amounts of kids at games now a days trust me i was a galaxy season ticket holder and there are a lot of kids and those kids will soon grow up watching them, talking about them and those kids will grow and boom loyal fans are created. there is no sense in trying to worry about converting eurosnobs it will never work. it will take half a generation for us to be a top 4 league in the world, no one in this world does sports like the USA does sports. Is just a matter of a couple decades and we a little more than half way there. USA!!! MLS!!!!

            • JayAre says:

              Jimmy Conrad is part of the back in the day MLS. There are more teams now thus more competition so by the time Miami comes around that problem will be even smaller and more irrelevant. The only thing MLS needs to do is add extra incentive to the supporters shield

      • Noah says:

        Pffffft.

      • Turgid Jacobian says:

        HAHAHA

  3. Bobert says:

    Beckham says that a downtown Miami club will be successful because people like walking to soccer matches.

    So, Beckham thinks soccer is different from baseball, NFL, NBA, NHL. Someone should tell MLS homers this.

    • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

      What MLS has working for them is that MLS goers are very niche market and they tend to be loyal.

    • Uncle Grandpa says:

      NFL stadiums are rarely in a downtown area and everybody is in the parking lot tailgating.. soccer and baseball use the formula to march to the match (hitting up the bars on the way)

      • Bobert says:

        well soccer is different than all the rest because you know exactly how long its going to take to watch a match. It’s the opposite of baseball which is more like an all day or night thing.

        That’s why tailgating doesn’t work with soccer. It’s not compatible.

        • bryan says:

          lol what?!?!? you just made that up. you clearly have never been to a DC United game or a USA game. tailgating is in full force and a BLAST. get a clue.

          “tailgating doesn’t work with soccer” – one of the most ridiculous things i have ever read.

  4. Mouf says:

    “because the atmosphere at their games is filled with other sources of entertainment. In essence, MLS in Miami needs to be more than just about the match for it to really resonate with the soccer fans in the area.”

    Lol, NBA games are terrible basketball atomspheres. Are fans going to show up in the 20th minute and T-Pain featuring the latest Bozo going to play when the team is in possession?

    • flashgee says:

      Why the hate? This a good thing. .

      • mouf says:

        living in a big college basketball region, the atmosphere at NBA games completely laughable in comparison and bastardization of the game.

        What is on the field/pitch is the product.

    • Bobert says:

      the Jumbotron Era is American sports has ruined the experience of watching live sports for me. You do not need other sources of entertainment when you’re watching a live sporting event. Especially not with soccer where the atmosphere is more organic.

      • beto says:

        +1 im a big ncaa hoops fan but i can not sit thru a quarter of nba for that reason. Nhl is the same for hockey.

  5. Max says:

    MLS has to break through with Hispanics eventually. Miami is a great opportunity. I’m glad Claure is there, as I think he could figure out how to get the right people in place to market to the huge and diverse Latin community in Miami.

    I’m glad they’re also waiting until 2017 and not trying to rush this too much *cough, NYC, cough*.

    • Uncle Grandpa says:

      I never understand this argument. Hispanics don’t have a lot of money. They do not buy season tickets or luxury boxes…

      • Nico C. says:

        You’re right, they don’t buy luxury boxes, but they do buy family four or six packs because Latinos tend to have a lot of kids. And in turn those kids buy apparel and toys of the teams, and want food in the stadiums. And those kids might be fans of the team as adults. Cycle continues.

        Not to mention that Univision had higher television ratings of the 2013 MLS Cup than ESPN.

        Gee, maybe MLS should tap more into the Latino market?

      • Razak Pimpong says:

        This sounds a little racist. “Hispanics don’t have money”.

        • Razak Pimpong says:

          I’m sure there’s plenty of Hispanic business owners in Miami willing to buy luxury boxes.Plenty of middle class Hispanics willing to buy season tickets.You racist bastardo.

      • Weston John says:

        Visit Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Educate yourself.

        • MLSsnob says:

          Maybe for the long term the key will be to cater to the latino market but if you’re from S. Florida you should know that those latinos are basically all Eurosnobs who don’t think highly enough of the league to come and see a game. The key here is going to be the supporters groups, just like every other MLS franchise. Instant fan base, instant organic atmosphere. It creates a buzz for fans who see the atmosphere in the stands and want to be a part of it. Then once the buzz starts then you get the latino’s who think, hey, maybe I’ll go check it out.

  6. JayAre says:

    Their biggest problem will be distracting people from South Beach and The U. Their existence alone makes them more relevant than the Marlins

    • JayAre says:

      & please a stadium with a ROOF. Don’t fry the casual fan in the Florida sun.

    • MLSsnob says:

      Are you from here? “The U” fans are a joke, 5/6ths of them didn’t go to the school and only show up to the big games, UF, FSU. All the other games barely sell 5k tickets, in a 80k seat stadium that barley registers fans at all.

  7. drew11 says:

    I know Claure means well but if he keeps running his mouth about the uniqueness of Miami there will be a nice and bitter rivalry with OCSC.

  8. Super says:

    What is rushed about NYC ? They have a temp stadium. They have the money and fans that will show up if they build a winning franchise.

    • Frank says:

      Not everyone is going to be able to build a winning franchise. You simply can’t have that many winners. Domestically, there can only be three (SS, Open Cup, MLS Cup). At some point the number of teams missing the playoffs will be bigger than the number of teams making them and thus you’ll have a lot of non-winners. THe challenge will be to continue to attract fans. Miami will struggle to do that.

  9. drew11 says:

    Interesting that Garber so cavalierly dismisses Broward. It’s disappointing that MLS isn’t looking at putting a stadium in an accessible location and making a play for the whole region.

    There is no evidence of sustainable support inside urban Miami-Dade for a US Soccer club. Miami FC drew barely 1,000 people to matches and Traffic abandoned the market after a few years.

    Those fine folks in Miami may like soccer but it isn’t US pro soccer they are interested in. Writing off a huge chunk of potential customers in the region is a huge mistake by MLS.

  10. Nico C. says:

    I thought LeBron was supposed to be a partner. Along with other celebrity A-listers. Any truth to this?

  11. chuck says:

    Unless the manage to make MiamiBecks play the LIbertadores Cup. Locals won’t care

    • drew11 says:

      Yeah, that’s pretty much my thinking. Downtown Miami isn’t going work unless they want to pay CR7 $20 million a year to come play in their stadium. Garber and Co. will soon learn that you can’t fit square peg Cascadia into round hole South Florida.

  12. soccer boy el paso tx says:

    the question is who will have the best dps, galaxy, red bull, nycfc, miami, sounders and the way it looks the
    east conference will be loaded with dps. the east will have tfc, red bull, nycfc, miami and orlando with Dps players and thats if chicago and Boston dont step up. as for the west, you only have galaxy and sounders :-)

    • Bobb says:

      Portland, Vancouver.

      Hopefully one of San Jose, Colorado, Dallas, LA 2 under new ownership, or whoever comes West out of Houston / Kansas City will be a fifth.

    • ElMetrofan says:

      That’s a good point. Don’t see small market teams like SKC, SLC,or even cheap teams like Houston or NE having much more success after lets say 2020 when teams will be able to spend more money to keep players instead of releasing them because they get raises.

      • mouf says:

        a couple million more in revenue from big market isn’t much to billionaire owners who have multiple ventures that are doubling in size every couple years

    • mouf says:

      those “best” DPs have really gotten Red Bull at lot thus far…

  13. nasl to el paso tx says:

    I always thought the east conference would be stronger ans expansion went on. The west can not compete with the east in the coming years and its obvious. Will kaka go to miami or orlando, will messi go to nycfc or miami, will casillas go to red bull or miami. Practically the east, is going to be a tough conference and the west desperately needs chivas usa to rebrand, needs las vegas to pump up the west and another california city and not texan.
    But if MLS is heading towards 26 or 28 teams, then you need watch out for indy eleven or cosmos.

    • mouf says:

      To assume these bought, plastic franchises will be so successful that they overtake clubs which know what they are doing, quickly enough for those named players to be still playing, is assuming quite a bit as well as ignoring realities of team building and success

  14. Lloyd Heilbrunn says:

    They stressed walking to the Stadium?? Those guys ever been in South Florida in the summer?

  15. Weston John says:

    Great article, Franco. These are the answers we were looking for from the press conference. Real reporting.

  16. Julian says:

    To quote animal house,

    B&ull 4hi$

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  18. marta in miami says:

    Italia of the aFUSIONados and SBI Original Mafia….kinda…know Ives from Fusion days…..As a MetroStar…Fusion…back to Metrobulls now Cosmos and finally soon back to Miami fan…FINALLY!!!!!!!! We are so excited and the town is going crazy for futbol….it was all over the news with great tributes to the Fusion and #17. We are thrilled to finally be rewarded for our 2001 Supporters Shield Winning Team … many say was the best most dynamic in the short history of MLS. Our aFUSIONados had over 3500 emails back in the day and have over 5000 on facebook MLS Miami Bid and 2000 on twitter @miami_mls and are now called @southern legion. They took place in the ceremony and we could not be more proud. Miami is a very unique place and it will be a great success because it is in very good hands. Mr. Claure is the key to this whole deal as an Innovator …along with Becks as the talent…and the visionary Mr. Fuller this will build upon the spectacular history of players like Valderrama Serna Llamosa Preki Bishop Wynalda Mastroeni Rimando Beckerman Cullen Vaud and so many others … and with a coach like Ray Hudson they were magic in a bottle.