MIAMI — Major League Soccer’s official press release may not have included a start time for David Beckham’s MLS Miami franchise, but it probably should have given that league commissioner Don Garber wasted little time in revealing what year the expansion team would begin playing.
Shortly after Beckham was officially given an MLS expansion team at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center, Garber informed media that the Miami club will make its debut in 2020. The franchise’s planned stadium in the Overtown neighborhood will not be ready by then, and officials said it will take two-to-four years to construct, so the team will play its home games elsewhere for at least that first year.
“They won’t start in their new stadium in ’20, so they’ve got work to do to find a temporary location,” said Garber. “I will say that three years ago, four years ago we never would have considered it. We had been very hesitant to play in temporary facilities.”
The change in MLS’s approach stems from Orlando City and Atlanta United’s success starting in temporary venues. Orlando and Atlanta got very strong turnouts at the-then Citrus Bowl and Bobby Dodd Stadium, respectively, before moving into their permanent homes and continuing to draw well.
Where Miami’s short-term solution lies is unclear but there are several options on the table, including splitting home games between different places like Riccardo Silva Stadium on the campus of Florida International University and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
“You’ve got FIU, you’ve got Marlins Park, you’ve got Hard Rock, you’ve got other venues,” said MLS Miami co-owner Jorge Mas. “Do we stick to one venue? Do we do multiple venues to introduce the team regionally? These are ideas we are discussing. I’ve had conversations with all of the above.
“We’re going to do something great. I came up with the idea of doing a few games in different places so people can see the team. We’ll see. There’s no concrete, there’s no decision made.”
In the meantime, MLS Miami is awaiting the resolution of a lawsuit for the land in Overtown on which the club plans to build a privately financed soccer-specific stadium. Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez said he and the team are “very confident” that they will win it, citing the plaintiff’s lack of plan for economic development on the land as reason for why he will lose the appeal.
MLS Miami must believe strongly in its chances in that litigation, as the club currently does not have any other alternatives for stadium location.
“No,” said Mas when asked if the team had a back-up plan for a site. “Right now, no.”
NAME, CREST, COLORS TO BE DECIDED BY FANS
While MLS Miami’s official arrival was celebrated in the city, fans and observers both in South Florida and elsewhere were frustrated by the lack of details regarding the club.
No team name, crest or colors were revealed, but the ownership group said that was because they want fans to be involved in selecting all of that in the near future.
“This is the people of Miami’s team,” said Beckham. “We want to involve the fans, we want to involve the people, we want to involve everyone globally on this as well because I think we have a real opportunity to not just come up with any kind of name. It might be very organic, very basic, but it might be something different.
“We kind of know in our minds what we would like, but we want the people involved. We want the fans involved in picking the name, we want the fans involved in picking the colors, and that’s how we see our club. We’re a family club, and a club of the people. From Day 1, that’s what we’ve always said.”
As to how fans will determine those things is unknown, but Mas, who was the one interview subject to really provide some insight on Monday, said it would be done via social media towards the end of February.
“Let me tell you there are so many smart people in that world,” said Mas. “We’ve been meeting with tech people all weekend, really smart people. I had no idea a lot of these things were possible. There’s going to be an engagement of tens of millions of people on your phone and how you do it and how you design the uniform, what do you do, the options, there’s going to be a contest.
“It’s really, really innovative. It’s really, really cool.”
Mas also said that the club plans to provide news and announcements every three to four weeks for the next few months.
CLUB OWNERS TALK OF BEING MLS’S GLOBAL TEAM
Beckham and the ownership group don’t just have big ideas when it comes to social media.
Both the retired English midfielder and the other investors that spoke with the press stated their desire to become MLS’s “global team”. They believe the strength of their ownership group can pave the away for that, especially since they have deep pockets and because Beckham is capable of recruiting top players from all over the world.
“We feel, even me as an Englishman, that this is what this city deserves and this is what the people of Miami deserve,” said Beckham. “That’s our strategy, that’s where we want to take the team, and we believe that we will be different from other teams and not just ones in the MLS.”
If that is Miami’s approach in the coming months, it will surely build a roster in the mold of Toronto FC and Atlanta United. The expansion club might not necessarily assemble its squad in the exact same way as those teams, but it will have to be similarly aggressive and proactive in nature.
“We are definitely not going to be a defensive team,” said Beckham. “We are going to be attacking, we are gong to be vibrant, we are going to be culturally correct, because that’s what we want to create throughout our team. We have to understand the market, we have to understand our fan base.
“Our fans are loud and proud and they want to see a team that excites them, that entertains them. That will be the philosophy that runs throughout our club. That’s what we want to create.”
TEAM PURSUING ACADEMY LAUNCH BEFORE 2020
One big talking point for Beckham and his group of owners on Monday was their desire to build an academy for young players to play, grow, and learn in. The club’s plan is to get the academy up and running prior to 2020, with Mas stating that several sites are already being considered and that one will be chosen in the next “three months.”
“It’s hard to say at this moment but obviously we hope for at least 10 pitches, maybe more,” said Beckham when asked how many fields he envisions having in the academy. “That’s a big parcel of land so we have to get the right place and that’s obviously down to (the Mas brothers’) expertise in their area.”