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Saturday, February 8, 2014

MLS back in Miami

Photo credit: Fox News Latino
Last week it was announced that Major League Soccer would be returning to the Miami area, thanks to ownership by David Beckham and, possibly, Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure, founder of the Miami-based wireless distributor Brightstar Corporation, and the “American Idol” producer Simon Fuller. The team would start play in 2016 or 2017 with the latter being more likely.

Back in 1998 we got the welcome and expected news that MLS would be expanding to Miami with the Miami Fusion. It was a logical step given the diversity in the city and the importance of the sport for various sectors of the population. Miami Fusion was strategically contracted by the league in 2001.

For many years Miami has been a particularly difficult market for sports, let alone for soccer. One of the keys, it seems is the location of the stadium. Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, where the Fusion played, was too far for the likely target population to come in large enough numbers. Becks and company will need to take this into consideration.

But Mami brings many things to the game. Proximity to Latin American and Caribbean nations has made this a vibrant gateway city and its location makes it perfect for international matches and player development. Indeed, one can argue that the talent exists in the streets of the city and waiting to be discovered.

David Beckham will bring name recognition as an owner. His contract with MLS as a player in 2007 had a clause in it that provided Becks with a discount on a franchise, should he ever be interested in having a team in the league. Can he work some magic to get this team going?

Another thing the former England captain will have is an ability to attract top talent and to lobby for an expansion of designated players. One can imagine a 4-5 designated player team, perhaps with one or two of those being reserved for American stars. Star power is what attracts in Miami, much like LA. This is where the future lies for Beckham and the sunshine city. So, MLS, welcome to Miami and bienvenido to Miami.

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