MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade County rolled out the red carpet welcome for international soccer star David Beckham as he toured the area trying to determine where he will start an expansion Major League Soccer franchise.
Beckham had a clause in his contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy that allows him to purchase a franchise for $25 million. Beckham and his partners are looking for a place to call home for the new franchise and Miami is at the top of the list.
Beckham toured Florida International University which would play host to the franchise. He was impressed with what he saw from the Panthers’ facilities.
“These students are very lucky to be somewhere like this,” Beckham said of FIU in an exclusive interview with CBS4. “Everybody’s looked after me so well.”
Beckham was treated well between his tour of FIU and catching an Eastern Conference Finals game featuring Miami’s top team, the Heat. Miami hopes that between South Beach and all the culture, it has everything Beckham could want from a city.
“It’s the feeling of a place for me,” Beckham said of where to locate a team. “Yknow, a history of places where I’ve been around the world. Yknow, when I come into the campus you can feel that there’s something special.”
But Beckham understands that if you’re going to have a team in South Florida, it better be a winner. Because for all that the Heat brings to the area and its fans, the Marlins are the complete opposite.
“It’s one of the reasons why I’ve come here and one of the reasons why I’m interested in obviously bringing an MLS team here,” Beckham said of Miami’s passion for a winner. “I think it’s exciting and Miami fans they’re very passionate about their sports and very passionate about winning. So of course it has to be a success, but it’s definitely exciting.”
For Beckham, he’s looking for the next step in his storied career. He just retired from playing professional soccer and while it’s not on the same scale as getting out in front of the fans on the pitch, owning a franchise will keep him active in the sport.
“I’ve made sure that I had things ready to go once I finished playing and you know, there’s plenty of stuff for me to do and get involved in,” Beckham said of life after soccer. “There’s not many things that can take the place of playing and being out there in front of the people.”
If Beckham does bring an expansion team here, it would be Miami’s second time in the league. The Miami Fusion was a member of the MLS for four seasons from 1998 until 2001. Seven cities are reportedly in the hunt with San Antonio reportedly being Miami’s top competition.
Still, selling a Major League Soccer team in South Florida could be difficult. Soccer is the number one sport around the world, but in the U.S. trails pro football, pro basketball, baseball, college football, and possibly even hockey in the hierarchy of sports.
Last year, MLS games typically drew around 17-17,500 fans per game around the country. For comparison, the Miami Marlins are averaging 17,689 fans per game this season and are the worst team in Major League Baseball.
MLS has since been expanding its footprint across the country and currently has teams in cities including: Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Kansas City, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Portland to name a few.
However, the league has said it wants to expand into the south, which has traditionally been hardcore American football country.