David Beckham finds site for planned Miami MLS team

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Don Garber says David Beckham MLS Miami team is close

Former England captain David Beckham has found a site for his proposed Major League Soccer team in Miami.

Beckham's plan to field a side in the 2018 MLS season has been hampered by the lack of a suitable venue.

But the 40-year-old is now looking to build on the site of the Orange Bowl, the former home of the Miami Dolphins which was demolished in 2008.

"We are as confident as we have ever been that we can move this forward," MLS chief Don Garber told BBC Sport.

The site Beckham is interested in is adjacent to the Miami Marlins' baseball stadium.

Beckham was given the right to own an MLS franchise as part of the contract he agreed when he joined LA Galaxy in 2007.

David Beckham
David Beckham won 115 England caps, a tally only Peter Shilton (125) bettered

"He has been trying very hard to get a stadium built. There has been a lot more progress lately than in the last 12 to 15 months," said Garber.

"We have to finalise a whole bunch of deals with the city and the landowners but the site has been selected."

Garber is looking forward to Beckham's return.

"David has been out of MLS for many years now but we still talk about him," he said.

"He is a big part of our history. MLS wouldn't be what it is today if he hadn't decided to come in 2007."

'We're not a toddler now'

This season is the 20th since the MLS was formed.

Although it is still loss-making across its 20 member clubs, the competition - which features 17 sides from the United States and three from Canada - is expanding rapidly.

Average attendances are above 21,000 and newcomers Orlando City and New York City have attracted a combined crowd in excess of 863,000 for their 28 home games so far.

"We are not a toddler now," said Garber. "We are probably a college kid.

"Our best days are ahead of us but we are growing up."

Retirement home?

Steven Gerrard, 35, is playing for LA Galaxy this season while former England team-mate Frank Lampard, 37, and 36-year-old Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo have joined New York City.

It has been claimed that signing older players is detrimental to the development of MLS.

Lampard: MLS is no retirement home

"The interesting question is whether it matters," said Garber, who said the league needed a "blend" of players.

"David Beckham came over when he was 31. Michael Bradley, the captain of our national team, came back when he was 26. Sebastian Giovinco - formerly of Juventus -came over when he was 28 and just got into the Italian national squad again.

"We signed 35 players this summer, more than ever before, and the average age was 27. It is understandable that the biggest signings were players coming to the back end of their careers and that is what some people focus on."

Garber said the MLS needed "world stars who attract attention" to increase its profile.

He added: "When you have Gerrard playing for LA against Lampard in New York, that is going to resonate around the world.

"At the same time we are investing millions of dollars in academy programmes. Last weekend, Dallas had five home-grown players in their first team.

"It is a combination of all of those things that give us our identity."

Are China and India a threat?

When Didier Drogba left Chelsea for the first time, he joined Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, though he has since moved to MLS side Montreal Impact.

Shanghai Shenhua have subsequently signed Demba Ba - another former Chelsea striker - and ex-Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, while Brazilian pair Paulinho and Robinho have joined Guangzhou Evergrande.

The second season of the Indian Super League, meanwhile, will feature former Brazil left-back Roberto Carlos - who is the boss of Delhi Dynamos - and ex-France internationals Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda.

Does the MLS regard the Chinese and Indian leagues as rivals?

"Not in any way," said Garber. "Drogba left China to come to a league that could provide him with experiences more in line with his vision of what he wanted for his career.

"India and China might be where we were 20 years ago. They are new leagues.

"It is ironic we might not be the new kids on the block any more. We are past that fledgling stage."

Are Premier League 'pre-season' tours a good thing?

Manchester United and Barcelona fans
A crowd of 68,414 watched Manchester United beat Barcelona at the Levi's Stadium on 25 July, bigger than any MLS attendance this season

Seven Premier League teams spent part of their pre-season in North America while teams from six countries played in the North American part of the International Champions Cup.

This was in July, the middle of the domestic season as the MLS runs from March to December.

New York Red Bulls played Philadelphia Union in a cup tie on 21 July, the day before they faced Chelsea.

"The rest of the world does look at our region as a bit of an ATM," said Garber. "There is a lot money, there is a lot of interest and there is a lot of fan potential.

"There was a time when we believed wholeheartedly that the rising tide of soccer interest would raise all boats - and we had the most boats on that water. Whether that remains true is still to be seen.

Garber said he has had talks with the Premier League about an official competition every summer.

"I would love to find a way that we could play our cup champion and our league champion against an FA Cup and league champion in a tournament and play it in New York City every year," he said. "If not every year, then every four years."

Football looking at the USA with fresh eyes?

Even those who dismiss MLS as an irrelevance could not be unmoved at the United States' involvement in shaking world governing body Fifa.

An FBI investigation has led to the indictment of 14 former and current Fifa officials. Indirectly, it also prompted the resignation of Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

"The Department of Justice certainly weren't calling us up and saying 'guess what, we are about to go', but I will say many of us were proud," said Garber.

"We are in this game and were around a situation where there was perhaps less governance than would be around businesses in the US. Fifa was operating in a way that is culturally very different to the way we operate in our part of the world. That could be frustrating.

"It is good to see that finally, some folks are going to have to answer for that. People need to be accountable for what they do and I very much support what is happening.

"There is a great movement of reform and a new quest for different governance. As a person that is involved in the governance of my league, I think that benefits everybody, owners, fans, players."

Top Stories