The Great Recession foiled Marcelo Claure’s first bid to bring professional soccer to Miami, when a global financial crisis scuttled plans to bring an annex of Barcelona’s fútbol squad to the Magic City. Three years, his soccer dreams gained attraction again in the most Hollywood of ways: a dinner at the Los Angeles home of Jennifer Lopez and then-husband Marc Anthony.
Claure, a future Sprint CEO who was already a titan in the telecom industry as the founder of Miami-based Brightstar, was on the guest list for that 2011 event. So was Simon Fuller, an entertainment mogul who helped launch “American Idol” and also happened to represent David Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham.
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Claure and Fuller began talking soccer, and Fuller mentioned David Beckham, the most famous player to ever don a Major League Soccer uniform, wanted to launch his own MLS franchise in the United States. Claure had an idea. “I told him it should happen in Miami,” Claure recalled Monday, sharing a stage with both Fuller and Beckham to announce MLS approval of a Miami franchise.
The seven years between featured a string of ups and downs as Beckham made his first visits to Miami in 2013 on a hyped stadium hunt only to see the partnership’s first three choices for locations falter. On Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber came to Miami to share a stage with Beckham and partners while officially welcoming Miami as the league’s 25th announced city.
Part of the event focused on star power, with a video featuring quick appearances by Tom Brady, Will Smith, Jay-Z, Serena Williams and other celebrities congratulating Miami on landing Beckham’s MLS franchise. (Most received cheers; only Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, sparked sustained boos.)
Lopez and Anthony, now divorced, had lived together in Miami and were briefly sports celebrities themselves after Anthony was recruited by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross as a minority partner in an effort to bring some star appeal to a team struggling with fan support. And while they have no role in Beckham’s venture, they appeared separately on the celebrity video. Lopez’s message on Monday: “History will be made.”
This post was updated to correct Jennifer Lopez’s past role with the Miami Dolphins. Her ex-husband, Marc Anthony, was recruited as a minority partner of the team.