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MLS not ready to pull plug on David Beckham’s expansion efforts in Miami

Robert Mayer-USA Today Sports
Robert Mayer-USA Today Sports

David Beckham has been searching for a location for a soccer-specific stadium in Miami for approximately three years, but MLS knows that finalizing that type of deal takes time.

As such, the league is not ready yet to pull the plug on the project.

Beckham’s efforts to find land for his proposed MLS expansion franchise have been nothing short of frustrating. Frustrating for the global icon and his group of investors. Frustrating for the league. Frustrating for fans everywhere who want to see some sort of resolution.

There recently appeared to be a suitable location next to Marlins Park in Little Havana, just west of downtown Miami, but landowners unwilling to sell their property at the above-market rate they were offered have complicated matters for Beckham and his group. Now, the group’s focus has shifted towards another plot of land, marking the fourth different location that Beckham and his investment team have seriously tried to explore.

This drawn-out process might seem like too much of a hassle for MLS, especially with a city like Sacramento waiting in the wings, but the league values the South Florida metropolis highly. So much so that it will continue to wait. For now.

“We have made commitments to David, and we have a true belief in that city as representing an important strategic market for us and that hasn’t changed,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber during a conference call on Thursday. “That being said, if they can’t finalize their deal for a stadium, they’re not going to have an MLS team. If we reach that point – which I think we will have to figure out soon and I don’t have the date for that – then it’s conceivable that Sacramento could be higher on our expansion priority list.

“That was a very long way of saying, it’s hard for me to talk about Sacramento replacing Miami until we’ve finalized where we are in Miami. We will make the decision on Miami in due time.”

Garber did not go into specifics on Thursday as to why Miami – a city criticized for having a fickle fanbase – is held with such high regard. The commissioner, however, has said in the past that it’s an emerging market that is a gateway to Latin America. It would also provide a local rival for Orlando City, which is currently the only club located in Florida.

Another factor that goes in favor of Miami, though Garber has not stated it, is that it has the kind of cachet that can lure big-name players over. MLS has grown in recent seasons with the introduction of more stars from across the globe, like Kaka and Andrea Pirlo, and having a Miami club as an option would only increase the chances of having more of those types of recognizable players come over.

“Let’s just say we have been focused on having a team in Miami almost since we left over 10 years ago,” said Garber of the league’s decision to do away with the Miami Fusion. “Over the last decade as we’ve monitored the developments in that city, and we’re working off of a plan that had us expanding into strategic regions, Miami continued to represent a city of importance for us. We then had finalized our agreement with David Beckham on the city that he chose for his option.

“That decision was made almost three years ago, and it has been that long that we’ve been working with him and the city to see if we could finalize Miami as an expansion team.”

Garber admitted that the process to find a stadium location in Miami has been frustrating so far, but he stopped short of calling it the most difficult one of his career. He gave that distinction to Red Bull Arena – the home of the New York Red Bulls that opened in 2010 after several years of due diligence by the club’s owner and league – and also talked about the San Jose Earthquakes’ difficulties in building a permanent stadium to call their own.

These struggles are all part of the process, though.

“This is the life we chose,” said Garber. “It’s very difficult overall to be the last (major) league in and to start developing major urban projects after there’s been generations and generations of buildings for all the other leagues. It’s just the world we live in.”

What is next for Beckham’s group is a weekend meeting with the MLS Board of Governors. There, Beckham and his investors will discuss the new alternative site that they are looking at for a soccer-specific stadium, which is reportedly near Overtown next to downtown Miami.

MLS will be all ears, but Beckham and his group need to start making significant progress. Time is beginning to run out.

“We’ve never given them or publicly talked about any specific deadline,” said Garber. “Frankly, expansion decisions are decisions you live with for a lifetime. We want to get it right. We believe in the market, and if we can’t get it right then we’ll move on. David knows that, the city leaders know that, and the MLS owners are obviously well aware of that.”


  1. On one hand you have Sacramento who practically have a shovel in the dirt for a downtown stadium centered in a huge development project, 15-20K season tickets already sold and a youth program live.

    On the other you have a Miami team will struggle to sell out but will have a couple 30+ aging Euro stars on the roster.

    Its sort of a microcosm of the argument fans have of what the trajectory of the league should be.

    What do the fans want for the league? Does Miami really bring up viewer numbers of no one in town really cares about the team?

  2. MLS left Miami 10 years ago because it was an absolute disaster and now they want to go back… because Beckham is going to make it work? Not sure I buy into that notion. Miami is a terrible sports market and MLS is trying way too hard to make something work that we all know has failed int he past. Give Sacramento a chance,

  3. I get Miami is an important city internationally but it’s an absolutely terrible sports city and one where MLS has already tried and failed. Meanwhile there are other cities, like Sacramento, absolutely desperate for a MLS team with a stadium plan in place. I know “Sacramento Beckham United” doesn’t have the same cache but it’s time for David and Don to get real.

    • The main concern for a sports league is television viewership and television revenue. That’s where the money comes from. So this whole Miami thing is all about the television market. MLS must have teams in the largest tv markets. That’s it. Everything else is secondary. It’s that simple.

      Rank Metropolitan Market Regions / Areas
      1 New York
      2 Los Angeles
      3 Chicago
      4 Philadelphia
      5 Dallas-Ft. Worth
      6 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
      7 Boston
      8 Atlanta
      9 Washington, DC
      10 Houston
      11 Detroit
      12 Phoenix
      13 Tampa-St. Petersburg
      14 Seattle-Tacoma
      15 Minneapolis-St. Paul
      16 Miami-Ft.Lauderdale
      17 Cleveland-Akron
      18 Denver
      19 Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne
      20 Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto
      21 St. Louis
      22 Portland, OR

      Notice that every market is covered so far except (in order by top rank):

      11. Detroit
      12. Phoenix
      13. Tampa
      16. Miami
      17. Cleveland
      20. Sacramento
      21. St. Louis

      Out of the above listed, the most “sexy” city where players would most likely want to live and play is Miami. So by television market rank and sexiness/desirability, Miami is the easy decision. Stop overthinking it everyone. What fans think is important isn’t always what is important from a business perspective. This is a clear example of that.

      • While I know that you are right, I must remind you that the internets is NOT the place for well reasoned and rational expositions of thoughtfulness.


        Don’t. Do. It.

      • The x-factor is .. How many eye balls / tvs in those markets will be tuned to the game?

        In Sacramento every bar & restaurant will have it on and the patrons will watch like it’s their HS alma mater and you won’t be able to go anywhere and not see a Republic shirt.

        While in Miami in most places you’ll have to ask for the game to be turned on and maybe one other guy in the place will say.. So that’s the Miami team huh.. How are they doing?

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