Jan. 29, 2018; Miami, Fla.; Fans hold signs with the likeness of MLS team owner David Beckham as they wait outside prior to the expansion announcement at Adrienne Arsht Center. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
MIAMI – David Beckham could not help himself. As he walked to the podium in front of an adoring public, he flashed a smile that stretched from ear to ear. The grin was a byproduct of realizing his dream of having an MLS team at long last, the same dream that almost died two months earlier.
Beckham officially received the green light on his Miami MLS expansion franchise on Monday afternoon, ending an arduous four-year chase for approval from the league.
The atmosphere inside the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center was more pep rally than news conference. Beckham seemed to enjoy the blaring music, confetti cannons, motivational speeches, large tifo unfurled by supporter group Southern Legion and video compilation of congratulatory celebrity shout-outs every bit as much as the rowdy fans in attendance.
“This is a city that is built on dreams,” Beckham said during his public speech. “Today, you made my dream come true.”
(Courtesy of MLSSoccer.com)
Approximately 60 days ago, Beckham suffered a setback as he tried to piece together an investment group with enough financial muscle to make this team go from mere fantasy to reality. It was the latest in a long line of obstacles that stood in his way. The retired English midfielder decided to meet with Bolivian business partner Marcelo Claure over breakfast to throw in the towel on their efforts of bringing a team to Miami.
“I called him and I said, ‘I’m coming to New York. I just can’t see any way through now,’” Beckham said during a press conference following the ceremony. “I said, ‘We’ve tried everything. We’ve spent a lot of money, a lot of time over the last four years, and we’ve exhausted it. We can’t go any further because we’re not getting any closer.’
“We both sat there depressed, like young kids discussing what’s going to happen next, and then all of a sudden we looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s have one more try.’”
Their persistence and resilience paid off. Claure previously received an email from Miami-based entrepreneurs Jorge and Jose Mas, so Beckham and Claure decided to explore that avenue and attempt to add the brothers to their ownership group.
Their last-ditch effort proved successful. The dream refused to die.
“Over an eight-week period, we put it all together,” Jorge Mas said. “We got every element that we needed. We’ve been working very hard for over two months about vision, culture of team, what we want to do, different work streams.”
The ownership group, which also includes Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, will likely spend the rest of Monday celebrating. Very soon, however, Beckham and his associates will need to continue to work on building the team.
MLS commissioner Don Garber stated Monday that the Miami franchise will begin playing in 2020 in a temporary venue – not the proposed privately funded soccer-specific stadium in the Overtown neighborhood, which will not be ready until 2021 at the earliest – that does not leave all that much time for Beckham and his group to pick the club’s name and colors, hire a coach and assemble a roster that can compete from Day 1.
“We have a great team of owners,” said Claure. “They are all winners. They all want to have a winning team. We’re going to give it all we have to make sure that we make the people in this city proud of what they have, but we also have global ambitions.”
That last piece is something fans and observers were given a glimpse of during the ceremony on Monday. Not only did prominent entertainers and athletes, such as Jennifer Lopez, Tom Brady, Neymar, and Will Smith congratulate Miami for landing an MLS team, but Beckham also mentioned that top players based in Europe have reached out to him expressing interest and enthusiasm in playing for his club.
Star power, glitz and glamour might be necessities to garner constant attention and draw crowds in Miami, but the club also has plans to start an academy team before the 2020 season. Jorge Mas said the franchise already has some sites in mind for its academy, and that it intends to pick one within the next three months.
“Of course we want to bring in stars, but more importantly for us is to get the academy right,” said Beckham. “We feel that there’s a hotbed of talent that runs throughout this city and that’s what we really want to go for.”
More information regarding the team will be rolled out in the near future, including the process for how fans can help determine the club’s name. There will be more substance than style soon. There has to be. There is officially a team in Miami now, after all.
In the meantime, however, Beckham, his ownership group and Miami can celebrate and enjoy the fulfillment of a dream come true.
“Good things come to those who wait,” said Garber. “Everybody was pressuring us to get something done before it was right. … We weren’t willing to do it unless we were sure unless we had all the elements in place. It took a lot of patience and a lot of courage on everybody’s part.”