Miami was officially the epicenter of the soccer universe Tuesday.
David Beckham, pushing ahead with his plan to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami, was in town having dinner at the home of billionaire Marcelo Claure, a potential partner and the owner of Brightstar Corp., a global wireless distributor. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez was also a dinner guest, according to a source with knowledge of the MLS-to-Miami discussions.
Beckham and Claure will tour potential stadium sites Wednesday.
As if that isn’t enough to get South Florida soccer fans buzzing, Brazil’s national team — complete with international superstar Neymar — arrived in Miami to begin preparations for Saturday’s match against Honduras at Sun Life Stadium.
The Brazilians trained at FIU on Tuesday and are scheduled to train there again Wednesday and Thursday. The Friday practice is at Sun Life Stadium.
Beckham and Neymar in Miami at the same time? Does it get any better for a local fan?
Beckham has targeted Miami as his No. 1 choice to place a new MLS franchise, but continues to search for the perfect place to play.
As part of his contract with MLS six years ago, he was given the option to buy a franchise for a deeply discounted $25 million upon his retirement.
He retired last spring, said he would like to exercise the option and word is he hopes to present his plan to the league board of directors by the end of the year.
The biggest hurdle has been finding a stadium.
Beckham toured Sun Life Stadium and FIU Stadium during his June visit. Neither is the perfect solution.
Sun Life Stadium was built to accommodate soccer, and is a perfect venue for big international matches.
A crowd of 67,273 showed up in August to see Chelsea against Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup final. And 72,000 packed it for Barcelona vs. Chivas last summer. But the average MLS crowd (18,594) would get lost in the cavernous building.
Claure is on the board of trustees of FIU, and Beckham met with school leaders there, who believe their stadium is the perfect fit because of its size (capacity 23,500), location and international student population.
But league sources are not sold on FIU or Sun Life as permanent homes.
They have told potential investors they prefer a privately funded soccer-specific stadium of 20,000 to 30,000 seats, if possible in an urban area with restaurants and shopping nearby.
According to two sources, Beckham’s associates have explored the option of using Marlins Park as a temporary home until a permanent stadium is built.
Scheduling would be difficult, as MLS and MLB play in the summer, and the field would have to be reconfigured. But the location and amenities are attractive.