Beckham closer to Miami MLS franchise
Although retired star David Beckham and entrepreneur Marcelo Claure are still in talks to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Miami, a stadium hasn't been determined, and another potential ownership group has come forth this week, according to a report.
Citing a source with knowledge of Claure’s negotiations with Beckham, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday that the two parties met in Japan last week and plan to meet again with talks "progressing nicely, but not a done deal yet," according to the report.
Beckham and Brightstar corporation owner Claure toured Sun Life Stadium and FIU Stadium back in June. MLS sources said neither venue is ideal, according to the report, which added that the league is looking for "an intimate soccer-specific stadium."
Also on Tuesday, Italian entrepreneur Alessandro Butini led a formal pitch by a London-based investment group MIA4MLS.com, in partnership with the University of Miami school of architecture to develop ideas for a soccer-specific stadium, according to the Miami Herald.
"(MLS commissioner Don) Garber told me the stadium is the biggest variable, the No. 1 priority, so I am tackling that issue head on," Butini, told the Miami Herald at a presentation to UM architecture students. "MLS is looking for an 18,000- to 20,000-seat venue with covering for the fans, good drainage, FIFA compliant, luxury suites and first-class media facilities. I told the UM students we’d be looking at a $70 million budget for a project like this, knowing that it would likely cost closer to $85 million."
Butini said he will work on the expansion bid, according to the report.
"I think the team would work great because of the changing demographics over the past 15 years, more and more foreigners, more and more passion for soccer," he said. "People say Miami fans only watch foreign teams and not MLS, but if their kids grow up with local soccer heroes, that would change. Miami is an event-driven town, and my idea is to make a great fan experience at the stadium so people will want to be there."
On Monday, the Daily Mail reported that former LA Galaxy midfielder Beckham is mulling ownership of a new Florida club, and has an option through December to take up ownership of a club in the U.S. league for a $25 million fee.
There is not currently an MLS franchise in Florida, nor any of the closest dozen or so states in the region. The closest clubs to Miami are Houston Dynamo to the west and DC United to the north. The last time the state had any MLS franchises was in 2001, the year both the Fort Lauderdale-based Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny folded.
The Mail said Beckham, who retired at the end of last season after a stint with Paris Saint-Germain, is now in the final round of negotiations with potential co-investors. Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross, American Idol creator Simon Fuller and Brightstar Corp founder Marcelo Claure are all possible backers for the project.
Earlier this month, a source with MLS told ESPN FC that Miami was still lagging behind Orlando and Atlanta in its bid to acquire an expansion franchise on the grounds that it lacked a suitable stadium. The Mail, though, reports that Florida International University’s stadium is the team’s most likely home.