TORONTO (Reuters – Ever since David Beckham ended his playing career in 2013 it has become a Major League Soccer tradition that commissioner Don Garber is asked during his annual state of the league address about the former-England captain’s effort to bring a franchise to Miami.
With the league pushing ahead with expansion plans and set to decide on two new franchises at meetings in New York next week, Garber was again quizzed on Friday about the status of a team, which seems no closer to taking the pitch than it was nearly four years ago when he began the pursuit.
This season Atlanta and Minnesota joined MLS and next year LAFC will become the league’s 23rd franchise.
The original timeline has long had Miami penciled in as the league’s 24th club but Garber conceded on Friday that one of the two franchises from Detroit, Cincinnati, Sacramento and Nashville being looked at for expansion could step to the front of the line.
”It’s conceivable that could happen,“ said Garber, ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup final between Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders. ”This is the most complicated situation in any market we have experienced at least in my 18 years.
”Part of it has been complicated by the Miami market, generally it is a difficult sports market. The second part of that is that it is one of the fastest growing value markets as leads to their real estate.
“Third it is their political structure, there is a variety of different mayors all for the same space.”
The major stumbling block for Miami Beckham United, the team’s working title, has been finding financing and land for a stadium.
After failed attempts to secure land in the downtown waterfront area the Beckham group settled on the Overtown neighborhood of Miami as the site for a 25,000-seat soccer specific stadium.
In June the Beckham group acquired a parcel of land needed for their project and Garber said on Friday that the proposed franchise had cleared another hurdle when an appeal that could have blocked progress was turned down.
“We’ve needed to get a finalization of the land, the lawsuit on that land was just settled when the appeal was turned down last week and we have been working hard to try to find a local owner for David Beckham,” said Garber.
According to Forbes the average price of a MLS franchise is currently set at $225 million.
Beckham, however, is getting a major discount.
As part of the blockbuster deal that lured Beckham from Europe to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 the league gave the option to purchase a franchise for $25 million.
“I feel confident that it will come together,” said Garber. “I continue to say we want Miami in the league, it is a large market, a gateway city there is a lot of value to us having a team down there and I am confident we will get something done.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis