On Monday, MLS did what it promised not to do in Miami. The top-flight soccer league in the United States approved Miami as its newest expansion team even though the stadium location is far from being finalized and the plans could be in jeopardy of imploding this summer if a court’s ruling doesn’t go its way.
In 2014, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in his state of the league address that “Until we get [a stadium in Miami] finalized, we can’t make a commitment to Miami.”
And that stadium deal is far from being done.
David Beckham and his investors have a location in Overtown, one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods, earmarked for the stadium, but the Miami MLS group need to acquire one last piece of land for the stadium construction. In June 2017, the Miami MLS group received approval for the contentious piece of land. But that was before a wealthy land owner filed a lawsuit against the county for breaking state law in selling the land to Beckham in a no-bid deal.
In October 2017, a judge tossed Matheson’s case out, but Matheson appealed the decision. A court ruling is expected by July 2018.
In Monday’s announcement by MLS that Miami will be the league’s 25th team, there was not one mention of a stadium by any of the eight people on stage (Beckham, Garber, local investors Jorge and Jose Mas, Marcelo Claure, Simon Fuller, Miami mayor Francis Suarez and Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Giménez). It was only in the private meetings with the press afterwards that the stadium issues were discussed.
While it’s understandable that the MLS Commissioner and Miami representatives didn’t want to discuss the thorny issue of the stadium in a public setting, what is most intriguing is why the decision was made now to award Miami the franchise instead of waiting until this summer when the status of the stadium could be finalized.
We reached out to Major League Soccer for comment on why the decision was rushed, but MLS did not respond to our request.
Sprint CEO and Miami MLS investor Marcelo Claure did answer our question, however. “Why today? Because we’ve been dying to announce this for four years and we finally have everything we needed to announce. We have passed all of Major League Soccer list of things that we need to comply to officially award us a team. And that was achieved last week. So therefore we say that there should be no need to make the people of Miami wait any longer.