Beckham raising Florida’s hope for Major League Soccer resurrection

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2001 was a sad year for Florida’s Major League Soccer fans: both state teams, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion, were wiped from the league’s ranks.  But David Beckham is raising hope of a Florida MLS resurrection.

Beckham was in South Florida last week visiting Marcelo Claure, billionaire president and CEO of Brightstar Communications and owner of Bolivian football club Bolivar, together exploring the possibility of Miami for an MLS expansion team. There are currently no MLS teams south of DC.

In 2008 Claure attempted to bring an MLS team to Miami but lost out to Portland and Vancouver; and still wishes to add another club to his ownership roster.

Beckham is open about his desire to purchase an MLS franchise: when he signed with the LA Galaxy, his contract included an option to start a new team at a discounted price of $25 million.   On Saturday, Beckham met with South Florida political leaders including Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez, and Jose Sotolongo, executive director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission.

Support for a South Florida MLS program goes beyond Beckham’s contacts. According to Miami Dade County commissioner Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz, there is significant backing for such a venture.

“There is huge political support,” said Diaz to Reuters. “It is not only from the county, it’s 100 percent support from the municipalities, the mayors and the commissioner, the counselors from the different cities, they are also extremely supportive.”

But of course all of this depends on having a soccer-specific stadium.

Beckham and Claure toured two potential stadiums: Sun Life Stadium in Miami which seats 75,000, and the Florida International University football stadium which seats 20,000.  They were accompanied by entrepreneur Simon Fuller who handles Beckham’s business affairs.

During the 2013 legislative session, various bills and amendments would have added greater opportunity for the funding of Major League Soccer programs, but none prevailed.