David Beckham flashed his megawatt smile for hundreds of flashbulbs Wednesday morning in Miami, confirming he’d exercise his option to purchase an MLS franchise for the below-market value of $25 million with a goal of beginning play in 2017. That is no shock and has been rumored for months. It additionally doesn’t imply MLS will likely be coming to South Florida — once more — any time quickly. Beckham and his traders wish to construct a privately-funded stadium on public land at PortMiami, which the town would have to approve. Particulars beyond that remain imprecise.
Beckham made a variety of headlines on Wednesday, but his MLS ambitions aren’t a fait accompli for a city still offended concerning the deal it cut with Marlins proprietor Jeffrey Loria to construct Marlins Park. It means there are nonetheless plenty of questions and causes to be leery about Beckham and MLS concentrating on Miami.
Before digging in, let’s throw out the argument that MLS gained’t succeed in South Florida based mostly on the contraction of the Miami Fusion in 2001. For one, the Fusion played in Fort Lauderdale versus downtown Miami, which is critical. More importantly, the climate for MLS in 2001 compared to 2014 is totally totally different. Although MLS fails to price on television, it’s product and in-sport expertise have grown by leaps and bounds. Have a look at it this way: MLS still used it’s silly penalty kick shootout to interrupt ties as late as 2000. Now the league is on sound monetary footing, with New York City FC paying a $a hundred million expansion price and Toronto FC shelling out untold hundreds of thousands to bring Michael Bradley into the fold.
Knocking Miami as a “sports activities city” stays pretty easy to do. Except you’re Dan Le Batard, the town doesn’t have too many defenders with a national platform. It’s not onerous to put in writing or tweet one thing alongside the strains of “Miami is a terrible sports city filled with entrance runners” and get fun, nonetheless misinformed that opinion is likely to be in actuality.
Whether or not Miami’s status is honest or not is one thing. The numbers, nonetheless, don’t paint a really pretty picture. The Dolphins finished twenty first in NFL attendance this 12 months, taking part in to only 86 % capability. The Marlins — in yr two of their new stadium — were twenty ninth, with only 52.2 % capability in 2013. The Florida Panthers are currently twenty seventh in NHL attendance. The good news? The NBA champion Heat are fourth in attendance, taking part in to above one hundred pc capability.
Miami, it could look like most cities in America, is extra inclined to spend cash to go watch a winner play.
During his press wooing on Wednesday, Beckham insinuated star gamers want to come to Miami — obviously the South Seaside nightlife is a big draw for soccer gamers. Given MLS’s roster rules, the place a workforce can solely signal three Designated Players who don’t rely towards the wage cap, what number of stars in their prime will a Beckham-led MLS workforce be capable of entice? It’s laborious to ascertain the South Seaside nightclub scene would trump taking part in within the UEFA Champions League — how much whipped cream-flavored vodka can one person eat of their life?
And past that, how a lot of a draw for ticket-consumers will Beckham have as an proprietor? Positive he’ll be able to scoop up buyers, resembling Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure and who is aware of, perhaps even LeBron James, however are followers going to buzz by means of the turnstiles as a result of the famous, occasional underwear model is the club’s proprietor or may wave from his luxury field every once in a while? It labored — at instances — with Beckham as an MLS participant, however it seems rather less of a slam dunk as an proprietor.
Claure, it might appear, is the man pulling the strings behind this. He’s been nosing round South Florida to invest in MLS the final couple years, however piggybacking off Beckham’s star-energy appears to be how he’ll get a foothold into the market.
When I spoke with Ray Hudson in August, he mentioned that for Miami to be a viable soccer city it needs stars. Beckham is a star and a acknowledged name, however how lengthy will it translate out there? Or any potential marketplace for that matter? A crew proprietor can lend some money and credibility — to some extent — but for a membership to have success it needs far more than that wherever it opens up store.
As we’ve seen, success in MLS tends to come organically. Locations like Seattle, Philadelphia and (after a rebranding) Kansas Metropolis have been runaway successes. But groups like Colorado, Dallas and Chicago have built their very own soccer-specific stadiums and did not create lots of buzz. Beyond that MLS hasn’t been able to successfully tap into the New York market since 1996 with the MetroStars/Red Bulls — remaining a distant afterthought within the city’s sports activities’ landscape. Still MLS will carry one other franchise to Gotham with Manchester Metropolis-backed NYCFC within the coming years.
A downtown stadium sounds good in theory and Beckham’s plan at the PortMiami could make for some picturesque views, even when it includes a half-mile stroll for followers in the midst of the summer season. Terrance McCoy within the Miami New-Instances described the potential website as “site visitors hell.”
One thing else to contemplate: MLS will welcome Orlando Metropolis FC into the league in 2016. After ignoring the “southeast” for years, the region — particularly Florida — might doubtlessly be residence to a pair of clubs. For all its glitz, Miami is just the 44th largest city in America, sandwiched by Omaha and Oakland. A place like Phoenix, sixth in total population, doesn’t have a team, nor do places like Charlotte, Atlanta, St. Louis or even Indianapolis or Oklahoma Metropolis. Granted Miami is a vacation spot for gamers, but with its dimension and famously fickle followers is it the proper place to increase?
Without Beckham’s identify — and the sweetheart deal the league gave him again in 2006 — it appears unlikely. That stated, tapping into the Miami market would possible be unimaginable without Beckham’s brand. Will that model alone be enough to get the offers completed and make MLS soccer work in Miami on its second probability?