David Beckham is bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to Miami.
The team will join the league in a few years once a privately financed stadium is secured and built. Beckham, 38, becomes the first former MLS player to hold an ownership stake in a club.
“We plan on bringing a team that is going to be a global team,” Beckham said today at a news conference in Miami, where fans chanted his name as he approached the podium. “I’m committed to this league, and I’ve been committed to this sport for many years.”
Beckham had a clause in his 2007 player contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy that allowed him to purchase an expansion team for a reduced price of $25 million, according to the Miami Herald. The New York City Football Club, by comparison, which will join the league next year, was purchased for a $100 million expansion fee.
The former England captain’s investment group includes Bolivian-born Marcelo Claure, chairman and chief executive of Brightstar Corp., and British talent manager and television producer Simon Fuller, creator of “American Idol.” A team name has not been selected.
Beckham retired from soccer last year, ending a 21-year career that included club titles in four countries. He made his professional debut with the English club Manchester United in 1992, and went on to play for Real Madrid in Spain, the Los Angeles Galaxy, AC Milan in Italy and France’s Paris Saint-Germain.
During Beckham’s six years with the Galaxy from 2007-12, the MLS added seven expansion teams and nine soccer stadiums.
“Both as a player and an ambassador for Major League Soccer, David has had an incredibly powerful impact on our sport and our league,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said at the news conference. “He proved to all those who questioned his move to Major League Soccer that he came here not to retire, but to inspire a generation of soccer fans to leave a lasting impact on the sport throughout our region.”
Beckham made $47.2 million last year, according to Forbes magazine’s annual rankings, making him the eighth highest-paid athlete in the world. Almost 89 percent of that total came from endorsements that include Adidas AG, Samsung Electronics Co. and Breitling watches.
“I’ve worked for some of the biggest clubs in the world, with some of the greatest players in the world, and this is a dream,” he said.
Beckham is in negotiations with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the county commission to lease county-owned land for a 25,000-seat privately financed stadium. Gimenez said today that he was a “willing partner” in those negotiations.
Miami had an MLS franchise for four seasons from 1998-2001. The Fusion was shut down in January 2002, when Garber said the team had the lowest revenue in the league, the third-lowest attendance and few corporate sponsorships.
“To see the true passion for soccer in Miami-Dade county, you just have to visit many of the different neighborhoods in our community, where you watch young people, boys and girls of all ages from all over the world, playing soccer in our parks” Gimenez said. “That’s where you see the future of soccer in Miami.”
Garber has expressed his desire to make the MLS one of the world’s elite leagues by 2022. Its 19th season begins March 8 with 19 clubs. Franchises in New York and Orlando are set to join in 2015, with three more, including the Miami club, to be added by 2020.