Keep holding your breath, South Florida.
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber sounded hopeful about David Beckham’s proposed Miami team when he spoke to reporters at the MLS Draft in Los Angeles on Friday.
“I am confident [Miami] will be our 24th team,” he said. “We’ll continue to work hard on finalizing a deal there. There are a lot of moving parts, but we are making progress. We need that team to get announced before we make any decisions going forward. We’ve got all hands on deck.”
It has been nearly three years since Beckham created a huge buzz when he and his partners showed up in Miami with the announcement that they wanted to bring MLS to the urban core of the city.
Easier said than done. After failed efforts to secure a stadium site at the Port, on Biscayne Blvd. and next to Marlins Park, the group has settled on an Overtown site and continues to negotiate to get the deal finalized.
Garber also said the league hopes to capitalize on the NFL’s San Diego Chargers moving to L.A. by putting an MLS team there.
“We have spent a lot of time down there [in San Diego],” Garber said. “There is a good group that’s come together. We know the investor prospects well, and I’ve been there quietly. I’ll be down there for the U.S. game, and I think it would be a great MLS city.
“I think MLS has a better chance of succeeding in markets when a big major-league team leaves. It’s less competition, and I think fans are looking for something else to attach themselves to. We saw that in Seattle. We’re hoping for that in St. Louis, and we hope San Diego falls in that category.”
▪ Arena era begins: The second Bruce Arena era begins in earnest this week with his first U.S. national team camp in Carson, California. Arena was hired to replace Jurgen Klinsmann last month after the Americans lost back-to-back games to Mexico and Costa Rica.
Arena led the U.S. team in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, was let go, continued to have success in MLS and is now back to try to right a national team that appeared uninspired against Costa Rica. The United States sits in last place of the six-team CONCACAF group, and only the top three earn automatic bids to the 2018 World Cup.
The Americans’ next two matches are March 24 against Honduras and March 27 against Panama. They will prepare with friendlies Jan. 29 against Serbia and Feb. 3 against Jamaica.
“I have an open mind about how we’re going to look at this group and the other players that are in our pool as well,” Arena said.
The camp will be missing some key players who are in the midst of their European and Mexican club seasons. Among the players brought back are 34-year-old DaMarcus Beasley.
“Obviously, it’s Day 1. There’s only so much you can do early on,” captain Michael Bradley said. “But right away the mood and the spirit and the mentality was very good. … Any time you come back from a period of time off, any time there’s a new coach, it gives the whole thing new energy, new life. I can see it in everybody’s eyes that we’re excited for the next few weeks.”
▪ U.S. women’s camp: The U.S. women’s team is also in camp, and coach Jill Ellis, a Palmetto Bay resident, brought in five players from the U-23 team. Among them is 16-year-old Brianna Pinto, one of the youngest players ever invited to camp. She was a starter at center midfield for the United States at the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.
Others invited were goalkeeper Casey Murphy (Rutgers), defender Mandy Freeman (USC), 18-year-old midfielder Tierna Davidson (Stanford), and forward Savannah McCaskill (South Carolina).
“These players showed very well during the U-23 training camp, and this is a great opportunity to see how they perform in the highly competitive environment of January camp,” Ellis said. “Having a few more players in camp helps us in our 11-on-11 competition, and as I’ve said on many occasions, the majority of this year is about looking at new players so we can continue to expand our pool.”
▪ Miami FC signs players: Miami FC has exercised the contract options on Rhett Bernstein, Jonathan Borrajo, Lionel Brown, Jaime Chavez, Aaron Dennis, Blake Smith and Robert Baggio Kcira.
“All of these players made positive impacts on our team, whether on or off the field,” coach Alessandro Nesta said. “I want players on my team that have the desire to work hard every day and push our team to be the best it can be.”
▪ Vasco da Gama vs. Barcelona SC: Brazilian club Vasco da Gama will play at Central Broward Stadium on Sunday at 2 p.m. against Ecuadorean team Barcelona FC as part of the Florida Cup. Tickets are $15. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers were supposed to be in the tournament but dropped out. The Strikers’ future is in doubt, and they likely will not play in 2017, as the team was not retained by the North American Soccer League.
English Premier League: Chelsea (49), Tottenham (45), Arsenal, Liverpool (44), Manchester City (42).
La Liga: Real Madrid (40), Barcelona (38), Sevilla (36), Atletico Madrid (31), Villarreal (30).
Serie A: Juventus (45), Roma (41), Napoli (38), Lazio (37), Milan (36).
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (39), Leipzig (36), Hertha (30), Eintracht (29), Hoffenheim (28).
Ligue 1: Nice (44), Monaco, PSG (42), Lyon (34), Guingamp (30).
Sunday: Everton vs. Manchester City (8:30 a.m., NBCSN); Manchester United vs. Liverpool (11 a.m., NBCSN); Pumas vs. Cruz Azul (1 p.m. Univision); Sevilla vs. Real Madrid (2:35 p.m., BeInSport).