David Beckham: Ex-Man Utd star 'should ground share in MLS'

By Matt SlaterBBC Sport
Artist impression of a proposed stadium for David Beckham's MLS team
David Beckham's plan for a 25,000-seat stadium in central Miami was rejected by the city's mayor this summer

The owner of Atlanta's new Major League Soccer team says David Beckham should ground share with an American football side for his Miami-based MLS franchise.

Beckham and his co-investors announced in February that they wanted to create a new team in the MLS.

The former England captain has had two plans for a 25,000-seat stadium in central Miami rejected this summer.

Asked if Beckham should share a venue, Arthur Blank, who also owns the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.external-link said: "Yes.

"It's a challenge Beckham has to overcome.

"It's important he finds a balance between the commercial side and the special, emotional atmosphere you want for a soccer stadium."

Blank, who was speaking before the Falcons' game against the Detroit Lions at Wembley on Sunday (13:30 BST), is building a new stadium in Atlanta that will have a capacity of 65,000 for Falcons games, and 29,000 for his as-yet-unnamed MLS team.

David Beckham launched the stadium plans in February

This smaller capacity will be achieved by having a retractable lower tier and mechanised curtains to shut off the top tier, and Blank believes this should guarantee the more intimate, "soccer-specific" atmosphere the MLS wants for its expansion clubs.

Blank's relatively smooth progress towards a state-of-the-art home for his two franchises (he has even secured £125m in public money for the project) comes in contrast to the travails of Miami Beckham United, the group of investors fronted by the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star.

There are currently 19 teams in the MLS but none in the southeast quarter of the US. That will change when Orlando City start next year.

But part of the MLS's growth strategy has been to promote local rivalries, which is why it is hoped a second Florida franchise in Miami will join the league in 2017, the same year Blank's Atlanta team, in neighbouring Georgia, is scheduled to join.

The Miami team, however, cannot be given a start date until it finds a suitable home, and Blank believes it should reconsider its opposition to sharing an existing venue with an American football team.

Sun Life Stadium in Miami
Miami Dolphins famous Sun Life Stadium is equipped to host football matches

The NFL's Miami Dolphins play at the famous Sun Life Stadium in northern Miami, and they share it with the University of Miami's American football team.

The stadium was designed with football in mind, so its dimensions and pitch are fine, but it has no roof and is far too large for a new MLS team's fan base.

Another option is Florida International University Stadium, home to the public university's American football team. With a capacity of 20,000, it is a better size, but its pitch and facilities would need updating, and its location is not ideal as it is in the middle of a college campus.