Today, at an outdoor press conference at the Pérez Art Museum on the Miami seaport, David Beckham and Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber officially announced that the iconic soccer legend will build an MLS expansion team in Miami.
"We're making a soccer club that's going to be loved by many millions of people - I'm not just talking about the city of Miami, we plan on bringing a team that's going to be a global team," said Beckham.
"We want to bring some of the best players in soccer to Miami to play on this team. Yes, we will bring great players into this team. That's the fortunate thing about my career and the teams I've played for and the players I've played with. Players are already interested in coming to Miami.
It's pretty obvious which players people would want in the team and we have a list of players. I've been very lucky to have lived and played with some of the best players. Fortunately, these players are actually sending me messages and calling me up saying, 'Okay, Miami - great, when is it happening and how can we get there?' So that's obviously the good thing. We will decide that, honestly, in the near future, but we want the best."
Importantly, Beckham stated that the new Miami club's stadium will be built within the city and with private funds, not taxpayer money. Beckham’s ownership group will now work with MLS and local officials to finalize a deal for that world-class soccer stadium.
"We don't want public funding," said Beckham. "We will fund the stadium ourselves. We have worked very hard to get to this stage where we can fund the stadium ourselves. We want to create a football club that is the people's football club."
One of the most international markets in the world, South Florida has drawn crowds of more than 60,000 per game for international soccer matches. Beckham insisted the stadium will be located within the city, because, as he said, "Soccer fans love to walk to games as a community."
Beckham fulfills his MLS contract option
In 2009, in Boston, Beckham first revealed to me that he arranged a clause in his contract allowing him to purchase an MLS franchise. "There’s a deal in place where I can purchase an MLS team or start a franchise, so it’s something that I’m definitely interested in and I wouldn’t have something in my contract without wanting to do it," Beckham told me.
Now, Beckham has exercised that contract option to purchase a franchise for a below-market $25 million. His investors include his long-time manager and business partner, Simon Fuller and Miami-based billionaire Marcelo Claure, owner of Brightstar Corp. the world's largest wireless distributor and the provider of global services to Apple.
Beckham will become the first former MLS player to own a team in the league.
“We are thrilled that he will be an owner, and we look forward to him helping us achieve our goal of being one of the top soccer leagues in the world,” Commissioner Garber said.
Beckham also to develop MLS Academy
Beckham also announced that he plans to build a Miami youth academy that will bring in local youth players and develop them for MLS and national teams.
"The one thing I want to achieve more than anything is I want to set up a great academy, a kids academy, an academy that brings young players from all over Miami," said Beckham. We want local talent, we want local children, we want local football players that believe that they can reach the top and play in the MLS and play for the US team and play for the Mexican team and play for whoever and wherever they're from. I want to have to create a team that has young players come through the academy that go into the team.
It's not just about bringing the best players from Europe, the best players from South America, it's about nurturing talent and that's going to be the difference whether America will be a great team and have a chance to win World Cup one day."
Beckham became Major League Soccer’s first Designated Player in 2007, and led the LA Galaxy to two MLS Cup titles during his six seasons in the league. During his time with the Galaxy, Major League Soccer experienced explosive growth, adding seven expansion teams and nine soccer stadiums. Beckham finished his career with another championship in 2013 with Paris St. Germain, ending a 20-year playing career that saw him star for Manchester United, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan, as well as England’s national team.
MLS, which begins its 19th season on March 8, currently features 19 clubs, with expansion teams in New York City and Orlando set to begin play in 2015. The League is scheduled to add three more expansion teams by 2020, including Beckham's Miami team.