David Beckham and Jorge Mas, co-owners of the new Miami Major League Soccer franchise, celebrated the launch of their team Monday by stopping by Fado’s Irish Pub in downtown and surprising soccer fans who had gathered there. They bought a round of drinks for everyone, and then headed to Komodo for dinner with the rest of the ownership group and MLS executives.
By Tuesday morning, it was back to work on their new team. So, what’s next now that the confetti are swept up and the glare of cameras is gone?
Sometime before the end of February, the team naming process will begin. Rather than name it themselves, the owners want input from fans, so they are planning a worldwide social media campaign inviting fans to suggest names. There will be a similar initiative to decide the team colors, logo and jersey design.
Will it be Miami United, a unifying message and homage to Beckham’s days at Manchester United? Or Inter Miami? AC Miami? Miami Vice? Or something different? The fans will help decide.
“We’re going to be super-innovative in everything we do,” said Mas. “This is going to be everyone’s team.”
The owners are also close to securing a site for their Development Academy, which is a huge component in their plan. Mas said he expects to have a site in place “in three months.” Ideally, it would have at least 10 fields, requiring a large parcel of land.
Beckham said it is critical to have a successful academy, as the most successful teams in the world do. Young players join the academy as teens and are groomed with hopes they will someday play for the professional team.
“People talk about what players you want to bring in? What stars you want to bring in? Of course, we want to bring in stars, but more importantly for us is to get the academy up and running as soon as possible because we feel there is a hotbed of talent in young kids throughout the city and that’s what we want to go for,” Beckham said. “We want to create a soccer community, not just an MLS team.”
Mas visited the FC Dallas Academy, one of the most successful in MLS, to get ideas. That academy has boys’ teams from U12 to U19 and girls’ teams from U14 to U18. FC Dallas has signed a league-record 18 homegrown players. Twenty-eight players from the FC Dallas academy have played for their youth national teams for the U.S., Mexico and Canada. And more than 40 have received Division I college scholarships.
Beckham and his partners feel there is a lot of untapped talent in South Florida, athletes who either don’t play soccer or who can’t afford to play with the area’s top youth clubs.
“I’ve already talked to the School Board about doing things that will bring kids to our academy who are not exposed to the sport,” Mas said. “We want homegrown talent. I want us to be a stepping stone for South American players to come here rather than go elsewhere. We have a ton of ideas.”
Co-owner Marcelo Claure said the work has just begun. “Mission accomplished — Phase One. But we are determined to kick a ball in 2020, so we’ve got our hands full the next two years.”