MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On the eve of his big announcement, David Beckham was surrounded by the who’s who of South Florida civil servants for a private reception at the Adrienne Arsht Center Tuesday night.
The VIP event was held just hours before Beckham is expected to officially reveal his plans to bring Major League Soccer to Miami at a press conference Wednesday morning.
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.
“We’re going to make the team in Miami not just the best team in America,” Beckham said to a room full of cheering guests. “We’re going to go global.”
The international soccer star was seen schmoozing with some familiar faces, including Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
“He’s very famous. His wife obviously very famous as well, so it’s a great brand. It kind of really fits, the David Beckham brand in Miami,” said Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Beckham wouldn’t get into specifics about the announcement, but when asked why Miami would be a good fit for a franchise, he replied, “Why not? It’s a great city, vibrant city, a lot of passion. I couldn’t think of anywhere better.”
Beckham is already drumming up support from people like University of Miami President Donna Shalala and Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning.
“I’m very excited about the possibility of Major League Soccer coming to Miami,” said Shalala.
While rumors have circulated about Heat star LeBron James possibly buying into the franchise, Alonzo Mourning said he’ll stick to basketball.
“I wouldn’t be interested in partnering but ‘ll definitely buy a season ticket,” said Mourning.
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.
The key players are keeping things hush-hush for now – sort of.
“MLS is kind of bad on keeping their secrets. 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,” said Max Ramos-Paez a Southern Legion Miami MLS Supporter.
The still non-existent team already has a strong support system, no doubt strengthened by the Beckham brand of soccer.
“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,” said Ramos-Paez.
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 in the past with a promise a deal was close.
“We’re hoping is that an MLS franchise will be awarded to Miami pending the location of a permanent stadium site,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
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.
“We can’t wait. We’ll do everything we can to promote the team and to bring people to the stadium,” said Driussi.
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.
For now, Beckham is making himself at home in the Magic City.
“Being welcomed into Miami like I’ve been welcomed , it’s humbling, so thank you to everybody,” said Beckham.