Whether or not former former LA Galaxy star and prospective MLS expansion team owner David Beckham can succeed in his quest to land an expansion team in Miami could have potential ripple effects on the rest of the expansion process as the league begins planning for the next round of new clubs.
That's according to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who provided an update on Beckham's Miami expansion bid during a Q&A session with reporters following Friday's State of the League address on the eve of MLS Cup 2016 in Toronto.
“There is a deadline on the Miami deal, and I'm not going to share that deadline,” Garber said. “It's an agreement we have with David and [British entertainment entrepreneur] Simon Fuller.
“But what I've said before, and I'll say again here now – we need to resolve the Miami situation so we can go forward with our expansion plans and [teams] 25 through 28, because they're team 24. And if they're not going to be 24, then there are going to be things that need to move around. It's something we'll discuss at our board meeting [next week]. We may or may not come out of that meeting with anything definitive that we'll announce publicly as it relates to Miami.”
Beckham formally exercised his option for an expansion team in Miami back in February 2014 and despite seeing several potential stadium sites fall through, his prospective ownership team has recently made progress on a location in the Overtown section of Miami.
“We continue to work with the ownership group, because we want a team in Miami,” Garber said. “And as you all know, as you see how teams evolve in certain markets and the challenges of getting stadiums built, we try to do everything that we can to ensure that we have the right recipe for success as we're building clubs that we'd like to be there for the rest of time.”
Garber has not said when the next round of expansion will be announced, but he indicated it will be discussed at next week's board meeting.
In recent months the league has seen several cities put forth their candidature as future homes for MLS, including two more this week with expansion bids announced by the owners of the USL's Tampa Bay Rowdies and the newly-rebranded North Carolina FC, who are weighing their future after several seasons as part of the North American Soccer League.
The MLS Commissioner also recently visited Cincinnati, where the newly formed United Soccer League club there has set new attendance records in its first year of existence.
“It seems that there is almost no city in America where you can't have a viable professional soccer team,” Garber said. “The question is, at what level [division]? What are the facilities? How does it provide value geographically to the respective league? What's the long-term vision of those teams? It's very easy to get intoxicated by immediate success, but you've got to think, 'What's it going to look like 20 years from now?'
“Because this league will be here 20 years from now, we've got to be mindful. We want to have stability and not move teams around. But the takeaway from me in the last two or three years is the shock, frankly, at the energy in almost every major city in wanting to support a professional team.”