World Soccer Talk

Don Garber warns: David Beckham expansion group needs to find a stadium ‘soon’

Photo credit: AFP.

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber says David Beckham’s Miami expansion group needs to solve its stadium issues “soon” or risk not being added as the league’s 24th team. The warning to Beckham’s group, which meets this weekend with Garber at the MLS Cup final, came Thursday as its latest stadium plan has hit a snag. Owners of the land involved near the stadium of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins do not want to sell.

“It doesn’t seem like that land is in play because the owners don’t want to sell,” Garber said. “We will discuss that with David Beckham.”

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MLS folded a Miami team in 2001, but Garber said the league has looked to return “almost since we left” and saw Beckham, the retired English legend who played some of his final seasons in MLS with the LA Galaxy, as the perfect man to head the Miami club. But after two failed waterfront sites and the latest setback, Garber made it clear Thursday that being unable to reach a deal for land satisfying Beckham’s investor group and civic officials has been “frustrating” and patience is not indefinite.

Photo credit: AFP.

“If they can’t finalize a deal for a stadium, they are not going to have an MLS team,” Garber said. “We’re going to have to reach that point soon. We will make the decision on Miami in due time.”

Reports have Beckham looking at an old boatyard near Miami International Airport and a spot in the same neighborhood as the now-demolished Miami Arena.

Miami is slated to become the 24th MLS club after upcoming debut teams in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minnesota, but with Sacramento likely to approve a stadium bill soon, Garber said “it’s conceivable Sacramento could be higher on our expansion list” than Miami:

“We want to get it right. We believe in the market. If we can’t get it right we’ll move on. David knows that. The city leaders know that.”

“It’s very difficult overall to be the last league in to start major urban projects. The Miami project has been frustrating. It hasn’t been more frustrating than some that we’ve worked on. These things take time.”

Garber noted his goal of MLS becoming a major player for top global talent one day, but added, “If we want to be more competitive globally we’re going to have to spend more money. But we’re not going to do that until we have more revenues.”

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The league averages 21,500 spectators a match, and the MLS Cup final will be televised to 140 nations, including China.

“This was an epic year for us,” Garber said. “We’ve come a long ways. Our best days are still ahead.”