Video: David Beckham launches new MLS team in Miami
Former England captain’s as-yet-unnamed side will play in 25,000-seat stadium
Major League Soccer (MLS) is coming to Miami after David Beckham announced he is launching a new franchise in the Sunshine State.
“I’m excited to bring this great team to this great city - it has been a hell of a journey,” Beckham told a packed press conference. “I promise you the team we will bring into the league will be the best team.”
Beckham has endured a tortuous process to get the team off the the ground. Back in 2014, the former England captain exercised an option in his contract with his former club LA Galaxy to buy an expansion franchise - but that proved to be the only easy part of the process, according to BBC Sport.
“The launch follows four years of disputes over the site for a stadium in southern Florida, with residents having opposed multiple locations,” says the news website.
In December 2015, Beckham and his backers purchased a plot of land on which to build a stadium. However, that plan also ran into problems, when business tycoon Bruce Matheson sued the Miami government over the purchase, on the grounds that they had “sold the site below fair value and without a competitive bid process”.
The lawsuit was eventually thrown out last October and although Matheson intends to appeal, Beckham is confident that there is now no stopping his dream of a Miami MLS side. The as-yet-unnamed side, the 25th in the league, will play in the 25,000-seat stadium in the city’s Overtown district.
“It has definitely been years in the making,” Beckham told reporters. “I have definitely got a lot older and greyer since the first announcement four years ago… we have had a few bumps in the road, which is normal in business.
“Nothing is smooth sailing but sometimes you have to go through times like this to actually feel more rewarded at the end of it. If I hadn’t gone through four years of slight pain, at times, then I wouldn’t have met the ownership group that we have. Good things comes to those who wait.”
Beckham signed for LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007, and in exercising his option, will become the first MLS player to own a team in the league.
“Many South Florida fans and observers worldwide had given up hope on the seemingly never-ending project,” says the Miami Herald. “But the English soccer icon and his partners finally checked all the boxes to the liking of MLS officials.”
Beckham is a hero in American soccer, adds the newspaper, noting that when he arrived in the MLS just over a decade ago, there were only 12 teams, with an average gate of 15,504.
Now there are 24 franchises, with an average attendance of 22,106 - an increase of 42%.
Asked if he would be using his fame to lure big names to his new club, Beckham told the press conference: “I’ve been hearing from players for the last four years. From the moment we announced, I had players on the phone to me.
“Obviously, I won’t say who they are, but we have a lot of work to do before we get to that point.”