While David Beckham and his partners continue to explore the idea of building their stadium at the Melreese golf course site near Miami airport instead of in Overtown, another Major League Soccer team with a star-studded ownership group will christen its $350 million stadium on Sunday night.
Los Angeles FC, whose owners include Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm-Garciaparra, Nomar Garciaparra, Will Ferrell and entertainment mogul Henry Nguyen, plays its first game at 22,000-seat Banc of California Stadium at 9 p.m. against the Seattle Sounders (FS1).
LAFC is coached by former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley and off to an impressive start, winning four of its first six matches – all of which have been on the road. Sunday’s long-awaited home opener will draw a sellout crowd.
The stadium, which took 20 months to construct, is in the Exposition Park neighborhood in the heart of the city. MLS would have it no other way. The league made it clear it wanted the stadium within the “urban core” rather than in a suburban area. The same is expected of Miami.
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The LA stadium sits on the site of the former Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, just south of the main campus of the University of Southern California. It features a view of the downtown skyline.
At the official opening of the building last week, Nguyen, who also co-owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, called the stadium building process “arduous” and “interesting”.
Sound familiar, David Beckham, Marcelo Claure, Jorge Mas?
Banc of California Stadium is the most expensive soccer-specific stadium in league history. It also boasts the steepest seating bowl in the league, with a 34-degree pitch. The closest seats will be 12 feet from the touchline, and every seat will be within 135 feet of the field.
Steep stands, and a canopy over the seating are trademarks in British and European venues and will likely become the standard with new MLS stadiums.
So far, LAFC has created a buzz in the community, with star players such as Carlos Vela of Mexico, Diego Rossi of Uruguay and Benny Feilhaber of the U.S. national team. They’ve sold the maximum allotment of 17,500 season tickets, leaving the rest for single-game sales.
LAFC plays an attacking, quick-passing style, and has scored 16 goals over six games. The team is tied for second place in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the Beckham group has been working behind the scenes on a stadium plan, selecting a training site, and finalizing the team name, logo and uniforms. They are working with marketing firms in New York and London and expect to have announcements soon, according to Mas.
The plan is still to begin play in 2020 at a temporary site – perhaps Hard Rock Stadium – and have the new stadium ready for 2021.
Miami FC returns to U.S. Open Cup: Finally, some good news for Miami FC, which had a tumultuous off-season.
The fledgling team, which reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup last summer after knocking out a pair of MLS teams, will be allowed to field a team in the 2018 tournament.
U.S. Soccer had initially denied spots to Miami FC, the New York Cosmos and Jacksonville Armada – the three holdovers from the North American Soccer League, which is on hiatus and canceled its 2018 season after its application for Division II status was rejected by USSF.
The three teams are playing in the lower division NPSL this season, with Miami FC playing under the name Miami FC2. As a result, they will have to enter the U.S. Open Cup in the Open Division and begin with a play-in round.
Miami FC2 will play FC Miami City on May 6, and the winner of that game advances to the first round of the Cup, to be held on May 9.
Coach Alessandro Nesta, the Italian legend, left the club after last season, as did key players Stefano Pinho, Kwadwo Poku and Michael Lahoud. The team is now coached by former Scottish player Paul Dalglish, who coached at Ottawa Fury before taking the Miami job. Among the players still on the roster are Jaime Chavez, Vincenzo Rennella, Mason Trafford, Dylan Mares, Rhett Bernstein and Ariel Martinez.
The team has been playing its games at Bobcat Field at St. Thomas Aquinas University. For more information, go to miamifc.com