SOCCER

Soccer icon David Beckham to retire; rumors of Miami team ownership unfounded

 

Beckham has expressed interest in buying a Major League Soccer franchise, but contrary to reports, there are no immediate plans for him to bring a team to Miami.

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

David Beckham, the international soccer and fashion icon, is hanging up his cleats at the end of this year. Made famous by his bending free kicks, GQ looks and pop-star wife, the 38-year-old English midfielder announced Thursday that “now is the right time to finish my career.’’

The former captain of the English national team played 115 matches for his country, and won titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid, A.C. Milan, L.A. Galaxy and, most recently, Paris Saint-Germain in a career that spanned 21 years and five countries. He retires as the world’s richest soccer player, with a net worth estimated at $260 million to $300 million.

What he does next is anybody’s guess. He has said he would like to own a team, but contrary to media reports, there are no immediate plans for him to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami.

When Beckham signed with the Galaxy six years ago, the contract included an option to buy an MLS franchise for a discounted price. Beckham told the BBC that he planned to exercise that option “immediately’’ upon finishing his playing days. There have been reports he would buy the Galaxy and move back to California, where his family was very happy. There have also been whispers he would be interested in bringing a team to Miami.

It’s no secret MLS would like a team in the Southeastern United States. There is no East coast team south of Washington, D.C., and Miami is a soccer-savvy market that would serve as a gateway to Latin America. The league once had two teams in Florida – the Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny, both of which folded in 2001.

Orlando is pushing aggressively for an expansion team, and league officials say that market has the edge right now over Miami, which is known to have a strong passion for international soccer but has not proven yet to be as supportive of domestic teams.

The Guardian wrote on Thursday: “Orlando City’s frontrunner status has been dented by state rulings that denied them crucial funding to build a new stadium, but Miami and Beckham would be an intriguing mix. The city has been aggressively reinventing itself with design districts, the high-profile Art Basel art fair and equally high-end shopping. Those who play the game of guessing Beckham’s next moves by matching up the tastes of his wife would see Miami as a realistic option.”

While that sounds scintillating to South Florida fans, MLS executives have given no indications of any plans for a Beckham-backed team in Miami and say any talk of a Miami team is speculation. Their current expansion blueprint centers on New York and Orlando.

“Our focus is on the second team in New York, and Orlando City SC’s owners are very aggressive about bringing an expansion team to Central Florida,” MLS vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche said Thursday. “We’d love to be in South Florida at some point, but we currently do not have any specific plans for an expansion team in Miami.”

Executives at Relevant Sports, the soccer arm of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ RSE Ventures, declined comment. Beckham, meanwhile, seemed ready for the next stage.

“If you had told me as a young boy I would have played for and won trophies with my boyhood club Manchester United, proudly captained and played for my country over 100 times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world, I would have told you it was a fantasy.

“Nothing will ever completely replace playing the game I love, however I feel like I’m starting a new adventure and I’m genuinely excited about what lies ahead. I’m fortunate to have been given many opportunities throughout my career and now I feel it’s my time to give back.”

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