Friday, February 7, 2014

Full 90: Becks and 'Bron Take Miami


On Wednesday, Major League Soccer announced David Beckham exercised his option to purchase an MLS expansion team in Miami. Within his MLS contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy, existed a clause to enable Beckham to purchase an expansion team at a discounted fee of $25 million, a strategic effort to keep one of the most polarizing figures, connected to the MLS. The announcement was made on Wednesday during a news conference that featured MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The next step for Beckham and his team is to identify a location for a stadium amongst the already-crowded Miami landscape. One location the group is keen on is the Port of Miami, which is county-owned land, in close proximity to American Airlines Arena.

“I want to make it my own team”

Beckham is attempting to revive a culture of soccer in Florida. The last professional franchise in Miami was the Fusion, which folded in 2001 due to low attendance. He has meticulously eyed Port of Miami as his ideal location for a stadium because he acknowledges it is more valuable to fans when they can walk to the stadium. In that sense, he reveals he is striving to model his Miami franchise after Seattle Sounders F.C. Similar to many European soccer stadiums, the walk to the stadium, in itself, is part of club tradition. He elaborated, “We want to create a club which is the people’s football club.”

Associated Press

Beckham has made it clear that his intended plan is to take complete control of the team, including the team’s facility. In regards to the financing plan of the eventual Miami franchise’s stadium, Beckham provided that he plans to use private funding. “We have worked very hard to get to this stage where we can fund the stadium ourselves.” Currently, Beckham’s investment group, Miami Beckham United, is searching for prospective investors to help with initial start-up costs. Although Beckham is the mastermind behind the move to Miami, a noteworthy figure in the mix is Miami’s very own LeBron James.

It is no coincidence that Miami-VIP, entrepreneur, and soccer enthusiast, LeBron James, has been connected to Beckham’s landing in Miami. The two superstars, who have become friends in recent years look next to become business partners. On multiple occasions this season, Beckham has been spotted chatting with James courtside at Heat games. While it is not known how impactful James was in the decision to reincarnate professional soccer in Miami, expect James to become an integral member of the Miami franchise.

LeBron admits, “there’s some interest in both sides…David has become a good friend of mine over the last few years, and I think it would be great for this city to have a football club for sure.” LeBron did not comment on the extent of their potential business-ploy, however he did acknowledge that him and Beckham are in the midst of discussion and that he believes “it can be huge.”

Beckham reported to ESPN that he would continue to pursue James’ involvement:

Talks have been ongoing, but we’re friends at the end of the day. He’s a lover of Miami…He’s a lover of the sport, and he’s one of the world’s greatest sportsman. So to have him involved would be great, but to have him involved as a friend and as a fan- that’s more important.

Does this mean LeBron will remain a Miami Heat next season?

Heat fans be warned, if LeBron were to purchase a stake in the Miami franchise, do not equate that to mean he is guaranteed to remain in a Heat uniform next season. Two years ago, James became a minority owner in Liverpool F.C., but that hasn’t sent him sailing to the U.K. In other words, if James were to become a partial owner of the Miami club, he’d be able to manage his duties if he was to be wearing, perhaps, a Clippers or Cavaliers uniform. Simply, this would become another business venture by the man who once anointed himself a businessman the moment he stepped onto an NBA court. 

Beckham, a great soccer player, and at the moment, arguably a more brilliant businessman, seems to have surrounded himself with the right personnel to attain his dream of owning a soccer franchise. In terms of building a competitive squad, Beckham will surely use his star-power to attract a mix of local Miami talent and international icons. Beckham is committed to developing a team he can call his own.

Beckham’s methodology is simple: bring in great players, get the whole world watching. He has made it evident that he has already begun to receive phone calls from players regarding their interest in playing for him in Miami. “We plan on brining players through from a young age and brining local talent. We also plan on brining great players and players that have also been at the best clubs in the world.” While the future for soccer in Miami beams as bright as its burning sun, anticipate the earliest the franchise will compete to be 2017.

Bottom-line:
David Beckham’s enhanced involvement in the MLS has the potential to make international soccer players more receptive to the idea of winding-down their careers in tropical Miami. Let’s be mindful of the fact that Beckham becoming an owner of an MLS franchise does not mean he will be appearing in the starting eleven. From a fan perspective, this business scheme by Beckham will do nothing to boost general interest in MLS soccer, unless Beckham is able exceed expectations and attract a slew of international-talent for not just Miami, but across all of Major League Soccer. Fans rather see Beckham on the field, not in a skybox- they had their chance while he played for the LA Galaxy, and even then, he barely had an impact on overall MLS viewership. The biggest takeaway from Beckham’s maneuver is that the city of Miami has been bestowed with a franchise owner who is well versed in the soccer world. This is the city of Miami’s chance to erase its stigma as being a soccer-illiterate city. More so, this is an opportunity for Miami to transform into a hub for the world’s most popular sport in America’s most Heat-ed destination.

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Matt Puzio is a pre-junior in Drexel’s Sport Management program. From West Windsor, NJ, Matt is an active member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Matt has assisted Drexel professor, Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, in her Title IX research which resulted in a publication and a chance to speak at the 2013 NCAA Scholarly Colloquium. Matt has completed his first Co-op with Trenton Thunder.  Follow Matt on Twitter @mattypuz.

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