David Beckham exercising the option in his contract to purchase an MLS expansion franchise is old news. It’s also old news that he was going to do this in Miami, which is apparently his adopted home now. But today’s “big announcement” was nothing more than the expected; the obvious to anyone in the know. He announced no new members of a possible ownership group, or if he had made any headway in getting a stadium built. This sounded off alarm bells to many already skeptical of MLS in Miami, even with Beckham’s name on the marquee. So Commissioner Garber, I must ask, “Why now? What’s the rush?”
With NYCFC’s stadium plans in limbo at present, and with 2 teams crying out for stadiums in New England and D.C, the fact that this announcement was made at all is a surprising one. Miami-Dade County has already been stung with public funding for a sports stadium (thanks Mr. Loria), so Beckham and his investors will need to fund it privately. So if today’s announcement brings nothing new to the table, then why have it at all, especially if the stadium plans are so tenuous?
Is it for TV rights reasons? Probably not, since it’s been reported that ESPN and FOX have already agreed to those, Miami included or not. Is it for the Spanish rights? Well Telemundo is based in Miami, but those fees are a drop in the bucket compared to the English ones.
Is it to put pressure on law makers in Dade to get moving on a possible stadium deal? Sure, but the franchise announcement is pending a stadium agreement, which renders that moot. One of the league’s pillars of late was only allowing expansion with a suitable stadium, and now 2 teams are in the league without shovel in ground stadiums yet (although you could “excuse” NYCFC, since they’re bankrolled by oil sheiks). Sure the money appears to be there for this group, but there won’t be any proof until the city council meetings.
So it doesn’t appear that there’s anything new to add to this story, sans a Don Garber rubber stamp and a half-hearted plea to build a soccer palace in Miami complete with the requisite glitz and glamor it requires in Miami. But with no actual progress, this announcement could blow up in the league’s face if the stadium deal fails, which there is always a possibility that it will.
Beckham and his group could have MLS’ 22nd, 23rd, or 24th franchise, since the start date is dependent on many moving parts. He could start it up in 2 years, or as many as 6. NYCFC and Orlando City got their announcements within 18 months of their kickoff date, and they had more concrete plans. This doesn’t really change an air of skepticism and doubt about MLS in Miami.
So Garber, you got your party and press. Now answer me this: Why now? There’s no rush, unless you’re that worried Miami will be underwater by 2020.