MIAMI – David Beckham and MLS Commissioner Don Garber didn't give a specific target date as to when the recently announced Miami franchise hopes to begin playing.
However, Beckham’s Bolivian ownership partner did.
Speaking to substantially fewer reporters than Beckham in a more private area at Perez Art Museum Miami on Wednesday following the global icon’s announcement, billionaire Marcelo Claure revealed just when the club expects to officially kick things off and other details surrounding their current plans.
“Three years, three years, 2017,” said Claure of when he hopes the club will begin playing. "That’s the idea if it all works out like we hope."
With expansion side Orlando City SC joining MLS in 2015 and starting play at a temporary home before moving into their own soccer-specific stadium, it would be natural to think Beckham, Claure and fellow owner Simon Fuller could take the same approach for 2016 with their club before moving into the shiny new stadium they desire in downtown Miami the following season.
That, however, is apparently out of the question.
“I think three years is the objective because we’re creating a soccer team from scratch,” said Claure. “We have to pick coaches, we have to involve the community, we have to pick a name, pick a jersey, we have to convince big-name players to come play for us.
“Three years is the minimum amount of time to be able to start a soccer team.”
A site at PortMiami has been reported for months as the preferred destination for the construction of Beckham’s ownership group’s soccer-specific stadium, and Claure confirmed that on Wednesday but added that work still needs to be done with the local government in order to finalize that plan.
“It’s close to [American Airlines] Arena, there’s parking, it’s a site that has a view of the ocean that few teams in the world have,” said Claure as he briefly glanced at the area in the distance. “It goes with the [soccer] tradition of being able to walk to the stadium. It’s close to downtown.
“There are a lot of good things, but we are respectful of the fact that it won’t be easy for us to get the city to approve it, so we’re looking at approximately 30 other locations as well.”
Thirty locations may have been looked at overall, but the number of realistic options is probably much smaller given that Beckham, Claure and Fuller want to follow the proven MLS model of having a stadium in the downtown area.
MLS didn't achieve long-term success in the Miami market when the Fusion were around, but one of several reasons for that was because the club played at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale. Lockhart is roughly 30 miles away from downtown Miami, which may not seem like a big commute to most, but is to plenty of South Floridians.
“It’s going to happen downtown,” said Claure of the stadium. “It might not be at the location we’re looking at now, but the soccer has to be played where the fans like to unite before the game, where they can go to a bar before the game. It’s very different from other American sports, and that’s why we’re going to try and replicate what other countries have done, what other cities in the US have done, what Seattle has with their march to the match.
“The other day, I sat down with David and we looked at the map of the bridge that connects PortMiami to the city. Imagine thousands of people walking over that bridge to get over to the stadium before a game.”
Franco Panizo can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.