David Beckham is not in town, but his Inter Miami soccer team is quietly coming together on the seventh floor of a North Gables office tower.
Cardboard boxes of team T-shirts are stacked on the floor. Rows of still unoccupied desks line the room. Over in the corner, Sporting Director Paul McDonough dreams from his desk and fields countless phone calls from agents the world over as he stares at a giant whiteboard on which he has written the numbers 1-30 with player positions and blank spaces next to the numbers.
By this time next year, all those slots will have names — some of them very familiar names — and those 30 players will be in training camp, at a yet-to-be announced site, preparing for Inter Miami’s inaugural 2020 Major League Soccer season.
Team officials have been busy hiring office staff and scouts and are beginning to talk to potential players and coaches. They hope to sign a significant player in the next month or two, according to McDonough and owner Jorge Mas. They want a head coach in place by summer. Mas says he is interviewing “a very good one” in Europe in the coming weeks.
They are deciding among Doral, Hialeah’s Amelia Earhart Park and a few West Broward parcels of land for a training site/academy. And they are weighing Marlins Park and Hard Rock Stadium as a temporary home for the 2020 season — and possibly some or all of 2021 — while their stadium is built at Freedom Park adjacent to Miami International Airport.
“It’s getting more and more real for us, and we’re growing fast,” McDonough said. “We may sign some guys in a month or two, then sign guys in the summer, then really ramp it up in October, November, December.”
Another pressing order of business is the summer launch of the youth academy, which will be a fully funded program for 160 hand-selected players — U12 through U19 boys’ teams with 20 players per squad. There might be a girls’ academy in the future, but for now, the focus is on boys. Former Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas star Javier “El Maestro” Morales, a native of Argentina, will be named an Inter Miami Academy coach in the next few days, and Victor Pastora of Weston FC is expected to join him.
Meanwhile, McDonough, technical director Kurt Schmid (son of recently deceased MLS coach Sigi Schmid), and director of soccer operations Niki Budalic have been scouring local fields in search of talent.
“Our academy is going to be all South Florida kids,” McDonough said. “We are not going to import kids to take spots from the local kids. I have been out at Kendall, Weston, Lauderhill and other places, and there is so much talent down here, it’s crazy. It’s one of the deeper areas of the country.
“It’s just finding all the right pieces and putting those kids in the right environment. Some kids are super talented, but haven’t played in a structure like ours. The jump will be big, but we want to give that opportunity to those kids. Nobody will be excluded based on money. We will pay for everything.”
He said in addition to talent, they are looking for good character.
“You have to see them a lot, meet them, look at character, how they act on field and off — do they argue with the ref, are they cheating on defense?” he said. “Are they good teammates? How does he warm up? Does he smile when he’s playing soccer? Does he love it? We want to weed through all the parents who think their kids are great and find the real special kids.”