Greg Cote

Why Beckham group's pitch for MLS Miami is so perfect, and also so right for the times

David Beckham talks about his vision for a Major League Soccer stadium in Overtown on Friday, March 2, 2018.
David Beckham talks about his vision for a Major League Soccer stadium in Overtown on Friday, March 2, 2018. dhanks@miamiherald.com

The David Beckham group's emerging strategy to sell Major League Soccer in Miami is perfect. But is more than just right for this particular market. It is right for the times. It is a reminder for America.

Inclusiveness. Diversity. Open arms to all.

The principles that once made us who we were, the principles that seem to be slipping away, are being encouraged by MLS Miami.

No, embraced.

It is a small thing, one local team's marketing campaign. But it is a lovely thing to see. I wish it could go out as a public service announcement from coast to coast as our president talks about building a wall, our supreme court upholds a Muslim ban and hate crimes spike across our land of the less-free-than-before.

There's an ice cream shop I know of in Dania with a hand-drawn sign in the window that reads, simply, 'All Are Welcome.'

The Beckham group is hanging that same sign, in a way, as its 2020 expansion season draws ever nearer, calling itself "the world's most inclusive futbol club."

Says Beckham: "We say as owners it's our team. It's not our team. It's the people in this city's team."

This, from the team's Twitter site @futbolmiamimls:

Wherever you come from.

Wherever you play.

Whatever your story.

This club belongs to you.

The sensibility is an acute understanding of what makes soccer the one true international sport, and what makes Miami so ripe to give it a group hug. World Cup ratings for Telemundo's Spanish-langage telecasts are higher in Miami than anywhere else in America. No surprise. Miami is No. 2 in the nation for ratings on Fox's English-language telecasts. That is a surprise, and a pleasant one.

MLS and commissioner Don Garber should be doing cartwheels to have this vibrant gateway city, this ownership group and these waiting fans joining its league. I should say rejoining; there was the Miami Fusion in 1998-2001. But MLS was far less established then, the Fusion had a light-pocketed ownership group and games were played at a high school football stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Now the league is fully established, the Beckham group is rock solid, and the team is all about Miami, right down to the name it will choose: Futbol Club Internacional Miami (Inter Miami) or Futbol Club Atletico Miami (Atletico Miami), both an homage to the Hispanic market that will drive this franchise. One of the club's #ThisIsMiami Tweets even notes, "This is what some call soccer. This is what we call futbol."

That isn't pandering. That's smart business. That's also an acknowledgment that this is the world's sport, not America's. Futbol's mother tongue is not English.

In Miami the diversity that seems to scare so much of America, we see as family. What other city in the U.S. could draw almost 50,000 fans to a March friendly match between Peru and Croatia?

The diversity starts at the top, with the ownership group. It includes a British superstar in Beckham, a Miami-born business titan of Cuban heritage in Jorge Mas, a Bolivian banking mogul in Marcelo Claure and a Japanese billionaire in Masayoshi Son. Mas provides the deep local roots and Beckham the glamor. I mean, was he not just shaking the Queen's hand at the Royal Wedding?

Beckham out front and the glamor of South Beach will see no shortage of top players who will be interested in coming here, and the waiting fan base will be enormous.

The Dolphins and Heat might not be threatened, at least not soon, but I can see Miami's new MLS club quickly surpassing the Panthers and even the Marlins among South Florida's big pro teams in terms of interest level and passion.

Only MLS fans among us will be a cultural quilt that most looks like a mirror on Miami.

No sport more than soccer has the potential and power to be a unifying force.

It starts with the first line of that Tweet from MLS Miami and ends with that hand-drawn sign in the ice cream shop window:

Wherever you come from.

All are welcome.

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