Former Galaxy star David Beckham, shown promoting his new photography… (Matt Dunham / Associated…)
David Beckham is coming back to Major League Soccer.
The former Galaxy midfielder had a clause in his MLS contract that allows him to start an expansion team for $25 million -- a quarter of what a fledgling New York City team paid earlier this year to join the league in time for the 2015 season.
Now Beckham is showing signs that he intends to invoke that clause and place a team in South Florida, a market that has twice seen professional soccer teams leave for financial reasons.
This time, MLS believes, things will be different.
"We know that Miami is one of the most passionate soccer markets in North America," says Dan Courtemanche, the league's executive vice president for communications. "We believe in Miami as a market."
And an ownership group headed by a celebrity such as Beckham certainly won't hurt in star-studded South Florida. Just don't look for any of this to happen any time soon.
For starters, the league is already expanding to New York for the 2015 season and MLS will announce before the end of the year that Orlando will also be awarded a team -- the league's 21st -- for 2015 as well.
After that, the league's next target is Atlanta, where MLS hopes to place a team in Arthur Blanks' new $1-billion downtown stadium, a facility it would share with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. The retractable-roof stadium isn't expected to be ready before 2017.
That gives Beckham time to line up business partners -- Miami billionaire Marcelo Claure, the Bolivian founder of Brightstar Corp., a wireless distribution and service provider, is said to top that list -- and secure a stadium deal in a community still smarting over the fallout from the Miami Marlins' new ballpark.
According to Forbes, taxpayers will be responsible for $3 billion in interest expenses on construction loans related to the $639-million stadium.
Previous plans to place an MLS expansion franchise in massive Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, or at Florida International University, have not been met enthusiastically by MLS, which prefers more intimate soccer-specific stadiums.
"With all of our expansion markets, there's really three key criteria or areas that we take a hard look at," Courtemanche says. "First and foremost, the market. Is it a market that we believe would be successful in supporting a Major League Soccer club? Is it in the right geographic location? Is it attractive to potential sponsors, TV programmers, all that.
"But right alongside that is 'Does it have an ownership grown that has the appropriate financial resources to be successful?' And finally does it have a stadium plan that can provide a tremendous opportunity for success?