Soccer

As MLS agrees on a name for the Beckham Miami team, Croatian star expresses interest

Marcelo Claure, left, David Beckham and Jorge Mas, right, join Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber at a downtown ceremony in January announcing an expansion team is coming to Miami.
Marcelo Claure, left, David Beckham and Jorge Mas, right, join Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber at a downtown ceremony in January announcing an expansion team is coming to Miami. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Major League Soccer owners have agreed on a name for David Beckham’s Miami team, and it will be revealed “very soon” in an unconventional way. The unveiling of the shield and team colors are also imminent.

A “very high profile” player from the World Cup finalist Croatian team wants to play for Miami’s team.

A general manager with extensive MLS experience is in negotiations with Beckham’s team and is expected to be named by the end of July.

And, Beckham’s team must begin construction of its stadium no later than October 2019 per the expansion agreement with MLS.

Those were among the details shared by Beckham’s partner, Jorge Mas, in an hour-and-a-half Monday meeting with the Miami Herald editorial board and other members of the newsroom.

“Just wait ‘til you see how we’re going to reveal the name, it’s really cool,” Mas said. It will not be at a traditional press conference, he said. It may not even be revealed in Miami, although Mas would not offer any clues. Atletico Miami and Inter Miami are the two top choices, according to sources.

He said he has been in daily contact with MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

“I spoke with him when he was in Moscow [for the World Cup] at least a dozen times,” Mas said. “Because they need to approve this. Anything related to the site, the stadium, requires MLS signoff because we’re truly partners with the league. The [single entity] model in MLS is different from other sports franchises. I technically don’t own Miami. I have rights to Miami, but we own one-twenty-sixth of the league.

“The league and other owners all have a say. I cannot do anything without MLS’ approval, so they are completely engaged.”

Mas said the MLS owners have agreed on the name, the shield and colors are almost done, and it will be announced when the city hall issues are not dominating the headlines.

“I think the name will be well-received, frankly, the fans have picked it because we focus grouped and the fans picked the name. This is the fans’ team. It’s a great name and the way we’re going to unveil the name is very different from any unveiling of a name. It’s not going to be at a site somewhere with us at a podium unveiling a name. That is not who we’re going to do it, and I’ll leave it at that.”

The goal of the Miami ownership group, Mas said, is to make this franchise the highest-profile from a global perspective and he feels they can lure elite players from Europe and Latin America. The team is scheduled to start play in a temporary facility in 2020 and in its new stadium in 2021.

“I want this team to showcase what’s great about Miami,” he said. “I want it to be the MLS’s global team. Having the elements of our ownership group, of David Beckham, we have very ambitious plans for the team and type of players that will come here because it’s the gateway to the Americas. Sports unites. This will be a place for people to gather and celebrate and what a more beautiful celebration than the sport of soccer? We’ve seen the World Cup, the excitement over the last month.”

Miami ranked No. 1 among all U.S. television markets in 2018 World Cup viewership on Spanish-language Telemundo, ahead of Los Angeles and Houston. Miami was ranked No. 3 nationally for English-language Fox viewership, behind Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Miami ranked No. 1 for five matches and No. 2 for 13 matches on Fox. Combining Telemundo and Fox ratings, Miami was the top U.S. market overall for World Cup viewership.

Mas said he got wrapped up in the Cup and adopted Croatia as one of his favorite teams. “I liked their little checkered uniforms. And there’s a player there who’s extremely interested in coming to Miami — a very high-profile player.” The highest profile Croatian players are Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona) and Mario Mandzukic (Juventus).

He said the stadium issue must be resolved quickly because MLS has imposed a deadline.

“We have to get a stadium decision on the ballot as quickly as possible because per the expansion agreement with MLS, I have to start construction by October of 2019. If not, I am technically in default of the expansion agreement, and that puts the team at risk of not coming to Miami.”

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