MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The worst kept secret in South Florida was finally confirmed Wednesday when international soccer superstar David Beckham announced he is going to locate his new expansion Major League Soccer team in the Magic City.
“This is the culmination of a journey that started seven years ago when he announced he would play for the Los Angeles Galaxy,” said Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber. “As a player, he kept us all on the edge of our seats. He proved that he came here not to retire, but to inspire a generation of soccer fans.”
Garber then announced the newest franchise in Major League Soccer is headed to Miami.
“He chooses Miami because he believes in this city,” Garber said. “People here love this sport. We, together, have no doubt that it will be a successful MLS team.”
Beckham was able to purchase an expansion franchise for $25 million, far below the market rate for a new team. The deal was written into his original contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy. The international superstar has already drummed up support from some key players in South Florida.
One of the reported investors may be Miami sports icon LeBron James. The Heat superstar has invested in other soccer teams around the world and has reportedly expressed an interest in working with Beckham on the soccer team.
One item that will have to be resolved is the need for a new, soccer-only stadium. Major League Soccer requires a new stadium for any new franchise and Beckham, along with Mayor Carlos Gimenez, have started negotiations on a new stadium.
Beckham said the county has promised his team that the new stadium would be in downtown Miami.
“We started our negotiations last week and the start of the negotiations was; what is the process of negotiations?” Gimenez said Wednesday. “There is a time crunch to identify a site, get control of the site, and then to begin construction of the stadium. We’re going to do all we can in our power to get the stadium built in the right place.”
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.
One big question that surrounds any potential stadium in South Florida in the wake of the Marlins Park fiasco is will any public funding be needed for the construction of the new MLS stadium? Beckham wasted no time answering that question when it was posed by CBS4’s Gary Nelson.
“We don’t want public funding. We will fund the stadium ourselves,” Beckham said to applause. “It’s something that we have worked very hard to get to this stage where we can fund the stadium ourselves. We want to create a stadium, a football club that is the people’s football club.”
However, CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald reported that Beckham’s group will seek a state tax break, which could be considered by some to be public money going to the franchise.
Garber said Beckham will be “a committed local partner and do things for this community” and that if everyone “can get this over the goal line, we will be great, great partners.”
For Beckham, he said the decision was “personal.”
“I wanted to create a team that we can start from scratch. I know there was a team 10 years ago and unfortunately, they folded,” Beckham said. “I wanted to create a team that would be very personal.”
Beckham continued, “The decisions I have made are all very personal. I want to make it my own team. I have great partners. Miami is a vibrant city. It’s a city with a lot of passion. I know this city is ready for futbol, soccer, this time around. To be successful, you have to work hard. I’m going to work hard for this city and for this team to make this team successful.”
The new MLS team in Miami is expected to begin play in the 2017 season, but possibly could start a year earlier in 2016. The Miami team is the second Florida team welcomed by the MLS in the past few months.
Orlando was awarded a team late last year, which gives the league 22 teams. The New York Times reported Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank may also pursue a team in Atlanta. The league is expected to end up with 24 clubs across North America.