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Garber confirms MLS interest in Miami

David Beckham, Don Garber

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ORLANDO, Fla. – MLS Commissioner Don Garber confirmed at last night’s announcement for Orlando City SC that Major League Soccer is working with David Beckham to add another team in Florida soon.

“I’m convinced Miami will be a great market if we can get a stadium in downtown Miami and (get the) right ownership,” Garber told SBI. “Even though we left that market 10 years ago, if we go back with a different scenario it will be successful.”

Beckham has a reported $25 million option to purchase an expansion team in MLS that expires at the end of the year, so he’s been working to bring in partners for an ownership team to lead a new franchise in Florida, where Garber believes a local rivalry could thrive.

“I actually believe it’s really important (to have another Southeast team),” said Garber. “The league is very focused on rivalries. We have a second team coming to New York in 2015. We believe having two teams in New York is great, we have two teams in L.A., we believe we need two [or] three teams in Florida.

“I don’t know how long that’ll take, but the way the league is growing, the way the sport is growing, this state has such shifting demographics that are so positive for our sport, I’m convinced we’ll have more teams and rivalries that will be very special.”

Beckham was in South Florida last week looking for potential stadium sites.

Garber confirmed that Beckham has been speaking with Miami Heat superstar LeBron James about being an investor.

The league tried its hand in Miami previously with the Miami Fusion, but the franchise was contracted along with the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001. Garber admits that at the time teams in Florida didn’t pan out, but he feels enough has changed for a team to be successful in Miami.

“That time (in 2001), we had few owners, one soccer-specific stadium, America hadn’t really caught on to the game,” Garber said. “We didn’t have the right building in that market (Miami). It was just new and we were probably ahead of our time.”


What do you think about Miami as a potential MLS market? Excited to see the league looking to expand its presence in Florida? Think Beckham and James could generate excitement for MLS in South Beach?


  1. Different markets pay different fees … interesting fact expansion Fusion paid $ 25 million same year that Chicago paid only $ 5 million to enter in 1998

  2. Ooops that is “relentless” fan club … close to 20,000 tweets sent by @Miami_MLS … 4,500 fans on MLS Miami Bid on facebook plus 3,500 emails from old aFUSIONados list. Just launched @Southern_legion to be new fan club name. The last time there was top flight soccer was 1975 in the city of Miami it has more diversity now. The difference from just 2002 is astounding with the amount of SSS built, the expansion of cable channels covering soccer in three languages, the social media explosion, advancement of cell phones, and popularity of the sport. Oh and PS … 1 out of every 15 of you on the globe is typing on a cool new wirless product Mr. Claure’s multi billion dollar company distributed.

  3. Miami Fusion history for you newbies and or dislikers… At the last minute the Orange Bowl deal fell through and the team opened in Ft Lauderdale … it sold out 20,000 and over 10,000 turned away after driving an hour and waiting over an hour to get to the gates only to be turned away… then as the aFUSIONados were helping to pioneer the league they were told sit down do not jump in the stands no flags on poles no large drums no smoke bombs… arrests were made. The fan club met with the league who started to relax these rules and now you have what the Barra Brava and ESC started today shown on tv. There was no twitter facebook or really even active emailing to alert people of games and ffanclubs. These fans have a rentless fan base called MLS Miami Bid and is now rebranding to Southern Legion…we are extremely passionate and a large group…also working to form an AO Miami chapter recently with great success. Then just as it was building they benched and then traded Vaderrama one of the best players who pioneered MLS…fans protested and thought these Americans do no know much about good players and the attendance dropped. Finally it was just starting to pick back up even though the team only played two games in the Orange Bowl word was spreading. The game in mid summer day had 14,856 in the city of Miami finally and the league average was only 15k at that time. It was the most dynamic team many say in the short history of MLS winning the league. Unfortunately the owner was not willing to stick it out after a knee jerk reaction to the economic fallout to 9.11, it was disbanded with Tampa to save on travel to Florida. It easily could have been KC … and now look at their success in a new stadium. The demographics have drastically changed in the last five years with Europeans Central and South Americans. We do not want to be Seattle we just want to finish what we started with a Championship. Mr. Claure is one of the top Hispanic businessmen in the USA and with Mr.Fuller and Becks this will succeed

  4. Beckham can buy in at 25 million and sell his club to be relocated for $100 anytime he wants. Frankly, he has nothing to lose so this is going to happen on his terms.

    • This is the main point here. People forget he can quickly turn that 25M investment into 50M+ quickly by selling to someone else. Who would not not want to exercise that option? That is at least 25M+ free money.

      What moron would turn down free multi-million dollar money like that?

  5. Do we really need beckham or does beckham need us more. This is being rushed. I think that product quality should be the focus of the league. Better refs improved schedules and fielding competitive teams for concacaf via more dps.

  6. I’ve always been told that to go and do the same thing again that failed once before and expect a different result is illogical. MLS teams in Tampa Bay and Miami both failed, and not all that long ago.

    I’m still baffled as to why MLS isn’t looking harder at Raleigh, NC. You already have a soccer specific stadium in the Raleigh suburb of Cary at WakeMed Soccer Park that seats 10000, and could easily be expanded to 20000+. There are also several area soccer clubs that play on the field complexes at WakeMed Soccer Park that could easily become a developmental program for a franchise. The park has already hosted several men’s and women’s NCAA championships. The NASL Railhawks were 3rd in attendance for 2013 out of 8 teams, and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area has an extremely soccer knowledgeable fan base. As well, there are two local billionaires, John Sall and James Goodnight, who would be no-brainers to own a franchise. They are both in the Forbes 400. Their Company, SAS, used to have the naming rights to the stadium in Cary that WakeMed now has their name on, so the interest has been there before from them.

    I think Beckham and Garber are caught up in the glitz of Miami, when they should be taking a long, hard look at history, and what hasn’t worked in the past.

    • I totally agree, MLS should look at what happened with the NASL and soccer in America and know that to start a league here is just illogical. Of course I’ve also been told if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Maybe the two local billionaires don’t care about Raleigh?

      • The two local billionaires are from Raleigh and went to NC State University. I think they would definitely have interest.

  7. The problem with south Florida teams is that they have to be central enough that both people from Fort Lauderdale and Miami can go. As someone who lives in Fort Lauderdale and loves soccer, going to a game in Downtown Miami is not a drive I’m willing to do. Maybe on a weekend but definitely not on a weeknight.

    • I don’t get it.
      I lived 90 miles north of Seattle and had Sounders season tickets for four years, until I moved this year to Austin.
      I only missed a few games and in those cases I never had any problem finding anyone else willing to make the drive and use my tickets.
      Do you love the sport or not? Do you want to support American professional soccer or not? Make the drive, it will be worth it.

  8. This whole, why didn’t MLS build a second division is just a joke. Give it up people.
    It is NOT going to happen.

    The second division in England is drawing an average of about 15k.

    Don’t answer anything else, don’t try to sell me on Pro/Rel, with all the old arguments, because you are wasting your time like I am right now.

    Just answer one question. What is the US equivilant of 15k per game ?
    I say 5k….maybe less….with no TV at all.


  9. What happened to the MLS whose motto was “slow and steady wins the race”? Too much expansion too fast! All while there are still major problems in NE, DC, and Chivas.

    Also, we’re having continued problems with player development since the reserve league only plays ~10 games per year and there has yet to be any integration between MLS and the USL, NASL, etc.

    Additionally while I’m lukewarm on the Orlando team at least they already have an established fanbase!

    • i think the issues in DC, NE, and Chivas USA are completely irrelevant to any expansion team. DC can’t get a stadium and has had an AWFUL front office for years. NE is the red headed step child of Kraft, he does not care much about them despite his recent comments that he does plan on getting the Revs a stadium downtown. Chivas USA is just a mess all around.

      it’s also untrue that MLS and USL are not integrated “in any way.” MLS has made it very clear they hope that every MLS team will have a “reserve” team playing in USL Pro or have an affiliate team in USL Pro they can loan players to. this is a fantastic development.

      and yes, Orlando is the ideal situation. you have an owner who moved the team to Orlando from Austin, promised the fans a winning franchise, and promised Orlando will be in MLS. that is exactly what happened. closest thing to promotion you can get in the USA. but doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

  10. I live in Miami and this place is filled with soccer loving fans. The amount of south American fanatics here is insane, heck even my fellow Cubans love the sport and play it all around the south florida area. It’s a travesty I have to go to DC or Houston to support the league at the moment(which I’ve done mind you)

    Point being, you’re not “major league” unless you have a team in Miami. Talk all the nonsense you want about fair weather fans and all that jazz but people want to come here.

    • I’m with you. I spend about 4-5 months a year in Miami and am continually surprised by how common it is to see soccer games on at random bars and restaurants downtown. Not just high profile games either, but things like the U-20 WC.

      I think that a nice stadium somewhere close to downtown on the Metro/Metrorail route and a steady stream of big-name DPs (who shouldn’t be that hard to attract given the location and Beckham’s connections) would make a Miami team a plus for MLS. I don’t think we’d see Seattle-level success, but it would still be a solid market for the league.

    • Please just stop, the NFL doesn’t have a team in LA, which is much much more important city than Miami and it’s the biggest league by far. To say that you have to have a team in Miami to be considered major league is moronic, nobody has cared about the Dolphins since Marino, and in terms of baseball nobody would notice if the Marlins moved to a place like Portland tomorrow. Miami is only important when it comes to basketball.

      Miami is the worst sports town in America and it’s not even close. Miami is a front runner’s city that is not going to support the league, even if they pick up some DPs, unless it’s a team that fans already know they won’t show up. It’s going to be a disaster.

    • The idea of a team actually in Miami sounds great to me! I would love to go home for a long weekend and watch my Timbers play, and bring my family. I could eat all of the Cuban food I miss, too. As it is, going to OCSC games once every couple of years is going to be rad.

  11. How does LA have a great rivalry? Just because they have 2 teams doesn’t make that a rivalry. Chivas is HORRIBLE and has been since their inception. The Galaxy couldn’t care less about them, except their presence makes it harder to schedule games, because they have to share the stadium.

    Just move Chivas to Miami and let them fail there instead of in LA. Because after the glow of celebrity ownership wears off, whatever team ends up in Miami will fail.

    • While I agree with everything else you said, Chivas has not been horrible since their inception. Won the West in 2007 (and won the series against LAG) and 2nd in 2008.

      • In ’07 & ’08, Chivas did have a very good team: Guzan, Klejstan (sorry if I misspelled that), Bornstein before they took their club soccer to England, Europe, and Mexico; Jesse Marsch, Paulo Nagamura, Ante Razov; Mikael Galindo and Shavar Thomas when they were playing well.

  12. Attendance in the stands may be questionable, but the TV dollars by expanding to Miami will be well worth it. This is a good move for the league globally too, as anytime I have traveled to Central America or the Caribbean, I’ve seen Miami sports teams on television there, including the USL/NASL teams. Miami is the “Capital of Latin America” and adding Becks to the mix will help in securing contracts.

    • Some fans really are delusional. Adding teams isn’t going to make TV guys willing to pay more money. ESPN, NBC, and Fox can count. They know that MLS is expanding because its clubs need to expansion money to survive. They understand that a TV product with fewer viewers than WNBA is not particularly valuable, no matter if Beckham owns a team. They also know that, while attendance is continuing to grow in the Northwest, it’s flatlining elsewhere. MLS’ best season is still its 18-team balanced schedule effort. Why they didn’t take that opportunity to start building up a second division is beyond me.

      • “They also know that, while attendance is continuing to grow in the Northwest, it’s flatlining elsewhere.”

        now wait a second. if we remove Chivas, the league average increases to over 19,000, setting a record. there are shrinking audiences in markets like DC, but some other markets, outside of the PNW, are experiencing some growth too, right? not major growth, but growth. and the markets that are losing attendance, aren’t losing a ton (outside of Chivas).

        either way, i agree that having Miami isn’t going to solve TV rating issues…which really drive TV contract revenue. but i DO think Miami would have success with a TV deal like LA Galaxy have in place with TW Sports Network. they knew the draw in Southern California for LA Galaxy on TV was big enough to pay $55M for 10 years. at that time, MLS had just sold the league rights to NBC for $30M for 3 years. that’s pretty great for LAG and a nice injection of revenue (and yes, the Lakers deal was $1 billion for 20 years).

        i believe NYCFC will have a deal with YES, but that’s different given the relationship the Yankees have with YES anyway. Miami, however, with the right team/owners, could find a local deal similar to LA.

      • how and why would they build a second division?

        expanding the league’s footprint and attracting better players (with more money) is the most proven way to generate more viewers.

        until I get a convincing answer to those first 2 questions, I will tell you that the fans of creating a 2nd division are the “delusional” ones.

      • Well that was a nice rant, until the Forbes article came out today. NASL is building up the second division just fine by the way. Evidently they don’t need the money as bad as you’re making it out as 10 teams are now turning a profit. The league has grown in leaps and bounds in just five years, I think they got a good plan going.

      • Yet popularity has stagnated outside a few markets. That’s my issue. Sure, every new club – or new SSS – generates an attendance boost that first year. And what is going on in the Pacific Northwest is phenomenal. But, increasingly, that is offset by older clubs losing support. I understand Beckham has an option that is about to expire and I understand the league wants his star power back. But expansion is not going to solve MLS’ underlying issues (namely, that it’s the 3rd or 4th most popular soccer league in the US).

        To solve that, you’ve got to get a true American talent pipeline going (club academies in 15 US cities won’t cut it) independent of pay-to-play; you’ve got to have a scheduling model that makes sense to soccer fans; you’ve got to get consistency in TV scheduling (even if that means less upfront money or going with an unconventional partner like Netflix or YouTube); you’ve got to reclaim the American soccer tradition (as the Pacific Northwest has clearly done). Expansion for its own sake is not the answer.

  13. Miami is a terrible idea. There should be a solid existing fan base before a new franchis is awarded, a la the Pacific Northwest teams, Philly, Montreal, even Orlando. Miami and NYFC have none, and I fear both will flop.

  14. MLS needs to be in south Florida. If done correctly it should not be difficult to put 20,000 people in the stands in the 8th largest metro area in the U.S. It’s all about getting a good stadium, good marketing, and signing good DPs. Miami is a major media market and it has international cachet to help MLS become a global league.

  15. Pet peeve alert.

    The Miami Fusion weren’t “contracted”. They were eliminated. Had they been contracted, they would still exist, just in some kind of reduced form.

    The LEAGUE contracted.

  16. I believe that the demographics in Miami now would be more receptive to an MLS team then it was back in 2001. You have many South Americans, and people of Caribbean decent living in the region who I think would support a team. The biggest factor would be the stadium situation. The Miami Fusion did not work because they did not play in Miami, they played in Ft. Lauderdale. Hopefully Beckham understands that he needs to have a downtown location that is easily accesible, and then the fans will come. I also don’t think the FIU stadium or the Dolphins stadium is an alternative. They will also need some star power to attract the fans. It could work, but it also could fail. They need to be smart about how they proceed with this.

  17. A soccer business expert said in a book that Miami is a bad market for soccer (Fusion went bankrupt during the 2001 MLS crisis…).

    Whatever Becker does, I hope it is informed by good fact-based research.

  18. Why all the hate? I live south of Miami and would Love to see Beckham and Lebron own a team in downtown Miami. There are many many new fans after our World Cup successes and the northeast games are awesome. Sun life stadium routinely puts 70,000 people in the stands for international friendlies. This is a no brainier.

  19. Apparently Beckham and Garber haven’t exactly been following what Jeffrey Loira did to Miami with the Marlins stadium. I would assume MLS and/or Beckham’s group plan on paying for this stadium themselves (ha-ha)? The tax base in Miami would be stupid to go even deeper in the hole for another publicly funded stadium.

  20. Ah, the Beckham Rule again. Exactly what else has changed in Miami since the Fusion flopped? Just as in NYC, Garber’s got stars in his eyes again. This time, his “rivalry” argument covers Miami and Orlando City, which are over 230 miles apart. RBNY already has three rivals within that distance, but Garber says they “need” another one. MLS needs to pay more attention to problems with existing franchises (the ongoing disaster at Chivas, the inhospitable facility in NE, the fitful search for a stadium in DC), and less to expansion, at least in the near term.

    • expansion is where the money is because of entrance fees and tv contract implications. money will increase team budgets. increased team budgets will lead to better squads. better squads will lead to more attractive games and more success in international comps. this success will lead to more eyeballs. meanwhile, expansion will continue so that this cycle stays hot.

      • That sounds an awful lot like a pyramid scheme. MLS has severely screwed up by not building up a second division once they hit 18 teams and, instead, relying on expansion fees. Now, the teams are dependent upon that money. When MLS hits the saturation point where nobody is willing to put up $100M for a team in Nashville, they’re going to be in deep trouble.

      • it’s a business model. call it whatever kind of scheme you want. the big money in sports comes from tv contracts. that is what mls is gunning for. the expansion fees are a way to fund expansion and squad improvement so that tv money can become a reality. a second division has absolutely nothing to do with the business model. there is absolutely no guarantee that pro/rel would do anything at all to help the league. there is considerable evidence that more skilled players and better coverage in terms of the league’s footprint will enhance the league from a business perspective.

      • also, the $100 million expansion fee is a sign of the league’s growth and suggests that they are doing everything right. MLS teams were not always valued that highly (far from it). If the league continues to grow as it has, $100 million would be a great investment that owners in cities like Nashville (your example) would be happy to pony up. Of course, the expansion fee could jump again before too long… again, signifying progress.

      • agreed. i’m convinced people don’t get the difference between business model and org structure…

        Businessweek did a great segment on this with Seattle.

      • Except that due to the “Beckham rule”, the expansion fee for his team is only $25 million, wherever he puts it. They’re going to need a lot of star power and a lot of money to make it work, and they’ve got that. But stars and money get bored easily.

    • I don’t know much about Florida, but 230 miles in MLS is practically a derby. PDX-SEA are 175 miles apart; LA and SJ are 350 miles apart; and those are some of the hottest rivalries in the league. Obviously, they both have long histories, which Orlando and Miami do not.

      • houston and dallas are about 180 miles apart..and they definitely have a rivalry.
        Derby’s in MLS will become what ever they become..we cant expect that the US market will be like Europe or England . of course they have a more concentrated proximity.But the US beingmore spread out will produce some terrific derbys..already has..Cascadia rivalry is very intense..Dallas V Houston is very intense and RSL v Col is pretty gritty too…so although we may have less stereotypical derbys we have them nontetheless

    • What has changed in 12 years????? Well…a lot. The sport is much bigger…team have actual owners….teams play in stadiums purposed for them…

      Im not sure you know this but the “Miami” Fusion played at a high school football stadium in Ft. Lauderdale. That is at least a 30-45 minuted drive from downtown Miami depending on traffic. The league had 3 or 4 owners(i forget which) and nobody wanted the team. Its kind of amazing any team lasted frankly.

      I get the whole south Florida is a bad sports area (I lived there for 5 years) but the argument based on what happened 12 years ago really doesnt hold up. The sport in this country is completely different and the league is completely different. I dont know if it will work. As someone who lives in Orlando and supports Orlando City, I would love for it to. But any argument against it has to be based on logic and the Miami Fusion’s failure is not that.

      • This argument is weak.

        1) No matter how many great DPs Miami can bring in, the quality of the product on the field with an MLS Miami team won’t be the same as the Brazil NT.

        2) These are one-off events. Who wouldn’t want to go see one of the best soccer teams in the world play a game when it’s offered and it won’t be happening again? Will people come week in and week out to see an inferior product? Mexico’s NT packs stadiums in Dallas but people aren’t filling up the stadium to see FC Dallas.

      • relax, this comment was more of a joke than anything.

        i never made the argument an MLS team in Miami would draw 70,000 like the game the other weekend. they will have a ton of work cut out for them to not only get an audience, but keep it.

    • Im going to guess that you have never been to south Florida. That is the only logical place for a stadium to go. Joe Robbie/Land Shark/Sun Life Stadium is in the middle of nowhere and they cant get anyone to show up. The Marlins stadium is in a horrible part of town.

      This can work and I agree with the commish…it is going to take a stadium in the heart of the city for that to happen

      • I problem for MLS in Miami is geography and that South Florida is a terribly segregated place.

        The only way MLS gets around that is a stadium in an accessible area. I see no evidence urban Miami-Dade residents will support pro US Soccer. I see little hope that folks from outer Miami-Dade and Broward to flock to an MLS stadium in downtown Miami.

        Cookie cutter MLS urban expansion isn’t going to work in Miami. It’s a unique place and needs a stadium tailored to that.

      • AAA is downtown and even with a championship team they have a hard time getting people to show up. Marlins park also.

    • The whole thing is definitional insanity, second time same thing. And I think Miami and Orlando could be your first two expansion mistakes….since Miami last time.

      • Orlando and Miami are diametrically different situations. Orlando has a promotable club with organic growth, a SSS deal in place and urbanites who have shown a willingness to support pro US Soccer. Miami has exactly none of that. For those reasons and many more equating Orlando and Miami is moronic.

      • Moronic? The two franchises in Florida previously folded. That includes one in Tampa, which is not Miami. This is not just about “Miami,” it goes more broadly to whether Florida is ready.

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