Late Monday the Daily Mail in England reported, with some certainty, David Beckham is in “final negotiations” to become owner of an MLS expansion team in Miami. This is nothing new. When the retired English star signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 he had a clause in his contract allowing him to buy a franchise with the league at a 25 percent discount. Most observers expected him to activate the clause once his playing days ended.
MLS already announced plans to expand the league, with South Florida a likely target. The Miami Herald reports Beckham and his investors remain in “serious talks” but nothing has been finalized.
This would be Miami’s second shot at an MLS team after the Fusion were contracted in 2001. The climate for the league and soccer in general in America has changed in that time. The Fusion played their home games in Fort Lauderdale, whereas the proposed expansion team would likely call Florida International’s new stadium home until a permanent solution is found.
In Augut I spoke with beIN Sport commentator Ray Hudson, mostly to talk about La Liga, but did ask him about MLS in Miami. Hudson lives in South Florida and coached the Fusion from 2000-01.
“It’s an enormous, gigantic challenge,” Hudson told me over the phone when I asked about MLS in South Florida. “Could it be done? Absolutely. Is the market here? Unequivocally, yes.”
Miami’s rep is that it’s a bad sports town. A summer exhibition between Real Madrid and Chelsea in Miami drew 67,000 fans. It’s not a regular season MLS game, but it’s still a large figure. Turning American fans of soccer teams from Europe, South America and all points in between into MLS fans is an issue faced by the entire league, not only in Miami.
Surprisingly, Miami had the highest television rating for the U.S. National Team World Cup qualifier against Mexico outside of Columbus, Ohio, where the match was played. The 3.3 rating for Miami was higher than soccer hotbed Seattle (2.5)
Would these encouraging signs translate to MLS? With Beckham on board, it might according to Hudson.
“What’s needed to bring the horse into the stable is perfection, nothing less,” he said. “It has to be a brand that is recognized like Real Madrid, Boca Juniors, a club that is recognized. The same way Manchester City has done in New York. Maybe the only name that carries that singularity is Beckham. Because of his panache, his celebrity, it’s there. Forget the football side. The truth of it is, none of my neighbors living in this area knowClint Dempsey or Juan Roman Riquelme. Or Xavi. They know David Beckham. The immediacy and cache of that name will help carry any endeavor in MLS in South Florida so it would have a tremendous chance of succeeding.”
Even with Beckham’s name and brand recognition, his ownership group would have to do everything right on the first attempt in Hudson’s view to win over the hearts and minds of Miami soccer fans.
“They will have to hit every moving bullseye and there are dozens of them,” Hudson said. “They have to hit them all in that black circle and they can only throw once. Fans have been burned before, they haven’t forgotten what happened to the beautiful Miami Fusion.”
Your move, Goldenballs.
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