Beckham launches Miami Major League Soccer team
By Bimbo Ogunnaike
Former England player and captain David Beckham has launched his long-planned Major League Soccer team in Miami on Monday.
Beckham exercised an option in his contract with former side LA Galaxy to buy an expansion franchise in 2014.
The as-yet-unnamed team is set to play at a 25,000-seat stadium in the city’s Overtown neighbourhood.
“I’m excited to bring this great team to this great city – it has been a hell of a journey. I promise you the team we will bring into the league will be the best team,” said former Manchester United midfielder Beckham, 42.
Miami was officially granted an expansion side by MLS commissioner Don Garber at an announcement ceremony on Monday.
Beckham was congratulated in a video featuring his four children, wife and former Spice Girl Victoria, 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and other celebrities including Will Smith, Jay Z and Jennifer Lopez.
Beckham, who joined LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007, becomes the first former MLS player to own a team in the league.
“I joined the Galaxy because I realised the long-term potential in this league.I moved from Real Madrid to a league that wasn’t fully established yet – that was a big move and one I knew was going to be a big challenge but an exciting challenge. Commissioner Garber came to me and sat down and explained the plan of this league and where he wanted to take it – I was in from day one,” he said.
Los Angeles FC will join city rivals Galaxy in 2018, bringing the total number of teams to 23, with the league planning to increase to 28. Nashville were awarded an expansion club in December.
Beckham, who won 115 England caps, retired from football in 2013 after a five-month spell with Paris St-Germain, chosing Miami as the location for his MLS team later that year. The city has not had a football team since Miami Fusion folded in 2001.
The launch follows four years of disputes over the site for a stadium in southern Florida, with residents having opposed multiple locations.
Beckham’s team of investors purchased the land to build a stadium in December 2015, following three failed attempts to buy a suitable site.
The Miami-Dade government was subsequently sued by wealthy businessman Bruce Matheson, who claimed it had sold the site below fair value and without a competitive bid process. The lawsuit was dismissed in October although Matheson has said he will appeal.
The other partners involved in the team include former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller, Bolivian-American businessman Marcelo Claure, South Floridian businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas, and Japanese entrepreneur Masayoshi Son.
After the launch, Beckham told BBC Sport’s Natalie Pirks he would draw on his long career in football to help Miami to identify talent.
“Player recruitment will be one of my roles in the ownership group,” he said.
“I’ve had a long career in the game. I’ve had a wealth of experience from playing with different clubs in different cities around the world, so I’ve been able to experience different leagues and different cultures, so that’s where I can add my expertise into this ownership group. That will be my role – to bring great, talented players, but also to build this academy.
“We keep talking about building this state-of-the-art academy in Miami, because we have a hotbed of talent in young kids here and I believe if we build the right facilities, if we bring the right coaches, then we have a chance of bringing home-grown talent into this team.”
However, the former England captain has ruled out being a manager.
“Management has never been something that I’ve felt passionate about doing,” he said.
“I like to be good at something and I don’t think management is something I’d enjoy. I like to play, I like to be on the field, and that’s what I love doing. But then being an owner – that’s something any kid would dream of.”
Beckham is sure former Manchester United team-mates Ryan Giggs – the new Wales manager – and Phil Neville – appointed England women manager last week – are making the right move.
“I think it’s great. Ryan Giggs is loved in Wales, people will respect him for that reason and I think he’ll do a great job, people will respect what he’s done in his past career.
“Phil has a great opportunity now with a talented bunch of young English women’s players and he has a real chance of doing something special with these girls.
“It’s such a great position for him to have the chance to lead our country into a World Cup. It’s going to be great for Phil and great for the girls.”