David Beckham pledges to bring personal touch to MLS expansion franchise in Miami
Children in Manchester, Madrid, Milan and Los Angeles have long fantasized about possibly living the life soccer has afforded David Beckham, and now he has plans on inspiring on a whole new generation of wide-eyed dreamers in Miami.
Speaking for the first time as Major League Soccer’s newest owner during a press conference in South Florida on Wednesday, Beckham took a minute to reflect on a unique path that has taken him from global soccer star to a boardroom executive, and what it could mean for the future of the sport in MLS’ newest expansion market.
“I’ve lived the dream,” Beckham said. “This is what football can do for you. This is what soccer can do for you. It can give you a great career, it can give you a great life, it can give you the most exciting passion that any sport can give you. And that’s what we’re brining to Miami.”
Joined by MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Beckham strolled the stage Wednesday with ease while revealing the news that he’ll seek an expansion franchise in Miami, a long-rumored turn of events that is expected to bring soccer back to the region for the first time since the failed Miami Fusion shut their doors in 2001.
He fielded questions about potential players, stadium sites and his impressions of MLS since first joining the league as a player with the LA Galaxy in 2007, but largely stuck to the sentiment that this mission – his first foray into club ownership after thriving as a star on the field – has become the singular focus at this point in his career.
“I want to create a team that we can start from scratch,” he said. “I want to create a team that is very personal. Everything I’ve done throughout my career has been very personal to me, and the decisions that I’ve made all very personal. And like this one, it’s a big decision, but it’s a very personal one. I want to make it my own team.”
It’s unclear exactly when Beckham’s team will begin playing in MLS – initial reports last week indicated a 2017 arrival, but no timeline was set Wednesday – but what’s clear is that the team will need a stadium plan in place before an MLS franchise is officially granted.
Gimenez confirmed that he met with Beckham’s group last week about 30 potential stadium sites and Beckham insisted he wants a privately funded downtown stadium that can rival the convenience of the Miami Heat’s home at American Airlines Arena, but he also admitted getting the stadium deal in place will take time.
“Obviously we can’t build a stadium in six months, but once we have the site and work with the mayor and his commissioners and the people of Miami, we’ll be quick,” Beckham said. “We’ll be very quick, hopefully.”
Beckham confirmed that his ownership group will include longtime business partner and friend Simon Fuller, as well as Bolivian telecommunications billionaire Marcelo Claure, who lives in Miami.
He also echoed a comment he made during an invite-only event in Miami on Tuesday night that he intends to make the Miami franchise one “loved by millions of people” after they join the league.
“I’m not talking about just Miami,” he said. “We plan on bringing a team that is a global team.”
Beckham first began zeroing in on a Miami expansion franchise last year and has reportedly worked tirelessly with local politicians and business owners ever since, even mingling with Heat superstar LeBron James and drawing him into the conversation about a potential stake in ownership.
It’s that work ethic and global appeal that Garber said has impressed him the most about Beckham since his playing days ended in 2012 with the second of two MLS Cup titles with the Galaxy.
“He has been able to transition those skills that made him one of the great footballers to now, hopefully, one of our great owners,” Garber said. “When we had the opportunity to bring in David as an owner when he started playing in this league, all of us believed that if we could get through the years that he was such a great player in Major League Soccer and convince him to be an owner, it would be great for our league, our sport and everyone who loves this game around the world.”
Beckham steered aside a question about which players he might one day bring to the club but insisted he’s received messages from superstars who are interested in one day playing for the Miami franchise.
He also dodged a question about luring former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson out of retirement for a rebirth in Florida.
“We have a list of players,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky to have played with some of the best players and, fortunately, these players are sending me messages and calling me up, saying, ‘OK, Miami, great, when is it happening and how can we get there?’
“We will decide that in the near future,” he added. “We want the best.”