By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) – Former England captain David Beckham was officially awarded a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in Miami on Monday with hopes that the team will begin playing in 2020.
“We know the right people are in place and the time is right for Miami to become a great Major League Soccer city,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber at a public rally on Monday attended by local officials and fans.
Garber later told reporters that the team was aiming to take the field in the 2020 MLS season and could play at a temporary venue before a new stadium was built.
Beckham first announced his plan for a team in the South Florida city four years ago but he has faced a series of problems in finding a suitable venue and has adjusted the consortium backing his plan.
Along with Beckham, the club will be owned by Marcelo Claure, CEO of telecommunications company Sprint, Jorge and Jose Mas, Miami-based leaders of telecommunications and construction company MasTec; Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank; and entertainment entrepreneur Simon Fuller.
“This is something that has been a dream for many, many years,” Beckham said.
“When I was awarded the team there was only one city for me and it was here. I was drawn to this city for the same reasons millions of people are – the diversity, the culture, the people, the weather, the beaches,” he said.
However there was little detail given of the precise plans for the club.
“Additional news and information on the club – including its debut season in MLS, team name, logo and staff – will be announced in the future,” the league said in a statement.
Beckham justified the lack of information by saying he wanted the fans to be involved in decision-making.
“We want to involve the fans from day one. So they have the opportunity to name their team to pick their colors and that’s what’s important to us and that’s why we haven’t announced everything today.
“Now (in a) couple of week’s time we’ll announce the colors, couple of week’s time we’ll announce the name but the people will be part of that,” he said.
Beckham, the ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder, had the right to a discounted franchise as part of the deal which brought him to play in MLS in 2007 when he joined LA Galaxy.
“It has been a process. It’s been painful at times,” Beckham told Miami’s Local 10 News station.
“I’ve always believed in the project. That’s why, for me, I never gave up. I knew Miami was the city. I knew this was going to be special.
“There have been many (hurdles),” Beckham said. “I’m a persistent person and I don’t like to lose.”
The Beckham group had two different plans for waterside stadium venues defeated and were unable to secure a deal for a third location close to the Miami Marlins baseball arena.
The latest proposed site is in the Overtown neighborhood where the group has purchased six acres of land and has an agreement for three more acres after a deal with Miami Dade County authorities.
That plan has also faced local opposition, including a legal challenge from businessman Bruce Matheson, and must still gain zoning approval, but Beckham said there was no doubt the Overtown site was the one his team will call home.
“This is our site,” Beckham said. “This is a site we have paid for. This is a site we plan on using.”
Later after the event Beckham said he hoped the planned stadium, a 25,000 capacity venue, would be ready for 2021.
The franchise rights will cost Beckham $25 million, according to multiple reports – well below the market rate.
The owners of Los Angeles FC, which joins the league in March, are reported to have paid over $100 million for their franchise rights.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond/Pritha Sarkar/Ken Ferris)