Miami celebrates MLS expansion after a decade of determination

David Beckham - speaks at Miami MLS anonuncement

MIAMI – For everything extra about him – the stardom, the smile, that winning lilt and the twinkle in the eye – it's easy to forget that David Beckham made his soccer bones on work. The rest made for movies, but innumerable reps put the perfect bend on every free kick, each corner.

Monday morning, Beckham told Good Morning America he was "a pretty persistent guy" and one who "doesn't like to lose." Accurate assessment, and qualities that shone through his dogged, decade-long pursuit of expanding MLS into Miami, which achieved its long-sought official announcement during a lively presentation in the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Now the 25th MLS franchise to be introduced, on the heels of December's Nashville addition, was welcomed to the league by Commissioner Don Garber, who placed a "FUTBOLMLS MIAMI" scarf around Beckham's neck as the Southern Legion supporters erupted. A tifo unfurled from the balcony, and confetti dropped from the rafters.

Beckham's: Expansion franchise "a dream for many, many years." / USA Today Sports Images

"I promised my son I wouldn't get emotional. It's very hard," Beckham said. "This is something that's been a dream for many, many years."

Univision’s Ramses Sandoval hosted, while a DJ blasting Latin-inflected pop and dancers with intricate costumes and vibrant plumage kept the party atmosphere pulsing through the speeches. The 1,000-person crowd kicked in ovations on cue and ad hoc, amped that their 10 years of emails to the Commissioner's office and those of the Miami and Miami-Dade County Mayors hadn't been for naught.

That extended journey, which aligned early with an enduring goal of Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, provided ample material for the day's speakers. Beckham's declared that "from the beginning, there was only one city," while Claure's uplifting, biographical speech thanked "the city that's fulfilled all [his] dreams." Both profusely thanked the Mas brothers, whom they cited as the missing local link to complete the community connection.

Miami celebrates MLS expansion after a decade of determination - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/USATSI_10575495_167725637_lowres.png

Left to right: Miami club owners Jorge Mas, Marcelo Claure, David Beckham and MLS commissioner Don Garber and Miami owners Jose Mas, Simon Fuller, and Miami city mayor Francis Suarez and Miami-Dade county mayor Carlos Gimenez | Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

"Together, we have an amazing, amazing, amazing group of owners," Claure said. "And we are all aligned, with the simple vision to create the world's most successful sports franchise. It all starts today, it starts right now, and it starts with all of you."

After a welcome video spilling over with celebrity, from Jennifer Lopez, Alejandro Sanz and DJ Khaled to Tom Brady, Serena Williams and Neymar – and, of course, Will Smith – Jorge Mas took the stage. The leader, with his brother José, of telecommunications and construction giant MasTec, offered an inspirational oration that built through his family journey to crescendo on a rousing "WE. ARE. ONE!" exclamation that whipped the attending supporters into a frenzy.

Mas introduced a video greeting from fellow investor Masa Son, the founder and CEO of SoftBank, then turned it back to Sandoval. And for all the pomp, the circumstance, the palpable relief, Sandoval closed with this: "I would like to welcome Major League Soccer to Miami." 

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