MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It appears that international soccer superstar David Beckham is ready to bring Major League Soccer to South Florida.
According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, Beckham has exercised his expansion option to buy a new franchise for $25 million and is negotiating with Miami-Dade County for a location for his new franchise.
Beckham, who was at Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday night, is scheduled to be at a 10 a.m. press conference on Wednesday along with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
The New York Times reported that Wednesday’s press conference is to announce the new team.
Beckham is reportedly holding a series of public and private events this week to help bring more excitement to the potential franchise. The only hurdle remaining for Beckham to overcome is to secure a site and the funding for a soccer-only stadium.
Major League Soccer officials have made clear that no franchise would be awarded to any city without a soccer-specific stadium. However, according to the Times, the league has let the requirement slide int he past with a promise a deal was close.
Beckham has scouted up to 30 potential sites, according to mlssoccer.com, and has agreed to an end of summer timeline at latest to select a stadium location.
The most mentioned location for the new stadium is a plot of land at PortMiami. The new stadium is expected to hold around 25,000 fans once it’s completed.
“The stadium itself will have to be privately financed and if it’s county land, there will be a rent payment,” Mayor Gimenez said.
As a commissioner, Gimenez was a vocal opponent of the plan to use public money to fund Marlins Park.
According to the Herald, the new team would likely begin play in the 2017 season, but possibly a year earlier in 2016.
It will be the second Florida team that MLS will have welcomed in the past few months. Orlando was awarded a team late last year and Miami will give the league 22 teams. The Times reported Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank may also pursue a team in Atlanta.
According to the Times, Commissioner Garber said he envisions an MLS with up to 24 clubs.
At the Soccer Cage in Brickell, the Beckham buzz is building.
“Everybody is very excited. We all, loving football, loving soccer, we can’t wait for David Beckham to be here and have an MLS team in Miami,” cage owner Christian Driussi told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
Driussi hopes Beckham’s star power brings a big boost to the game, encouraging young people to sign up to play, thus creating a new generation of fans.
“We can’t wait. We’ll do everything we can to promote the team and to bring people to the stadium,” Driussi said.
Max Ramos-Paez, the social media coordinator for Southern Legion, a group created to show support for MLS in Miami, said he’s confident the announcements Tuesday night and Wednesday morning will be good news.
“MLS is kind of bad on keeping their secrets,” Ramos-Paez said. “Ever since they talked about David Beckham possibly wanting to own a team here, we were all like, okay, he wants a team here because it fits in David Beckham’s persona as an international celebrity and everything.”
While Miami has been known to have its fair share of fair-weather fans, Ramos Paez believes a stadium in the urban core, coupled with Beckham’s brand power will fill the seats.
“Beckham putting his name on it really helps, especially in Miami because that’s the kind of city we are. We like things to be events and be hyped up,” Ramos-Paez explained.
Mayor Gimenez said Monday there are still a couple other possible stadium sites in contention.
He said Beckham’s group will have six months to settle on a location if Miami is awarded an MLS expansion team.