There was only a brief mention of Miami in a Wednesday Major League Soccer conference call about expansion, but it was a comment that should give hope to South Florida fans who may be thinking the David Beckham deal will never materialize.
Mark Abbott, the MLS president and deputy commissioner, was answering questions about the 12 cities that this week submitted applications for expansion teams. The league will grow from 20 to 22 teams this season with the additions of Atlanta and Minnesota, and Los Angeles FC is expected to begin play in 2018 with Beckham’s proposed Miami team joining as team No. 24, possibly in 2019.
Two more teams from the 12 who applied will likely be added for the 2020 season and a 27th and 28th team would come into the league sometime after that. The markets that submitted bids this week are: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
Asked whether there has been any thought of skipping Miami and giving that 24th slot to another market, Abbott replied: “That is not something we’re thinking about. We’re focused on finalizing a stadium deal in Miami.”
League commissioner Don Garber said in December that “it’s time for us to reach a conclusion” with Beckham and his ownership group.
“We are very focused on Miami being our 24th team. And we’ll continue to work with them to try to achieve that,” Garber said. “I remain a big believer in the importance of Miami to extending MLS’s reach to south of the border and to connect with a very diverse and culturally important city in our country.”
Beckham first announced his intentions to bring a team to Miami in February 2014, but over the past three years, he and his partners have hit several roadblocks. Three would-be sites were nixed, and they are now trying to finalize a deal at an Overtown site.
Beckham’s group plans to privately finance its 25,000-seat, $150 million stadium project. They purchased six acres of private land in Overtown for $19 million but still need three more acres of adjoining county-owned land before they can start construction. Beckham is also said to be seeking more investors.