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Talking about David Beckham, Miami and potentially shifting tides in MLS expansion

May 1, 2013, 7:02 PM EDT

David Beckham Getty Images

Is the push and pull of MLS franchise No. 20 about to take a southerly turn?

Very interesting stuff today from soccer sleuth Steven Goff at his Soccer Insider blog, where the Washington Post reporter says David Beckham’s long-whispered connections to a Miami expansion effort may be collecting momentum.

There’s no real news other than Goff’s sources hinting more at work here than the vaguely sourced embers in the media air around last December.

Goff is Goff, and he knows how to vet his own sources. So when the veteran soccer scribe says this thing could soon gain speed, you can trust there is weight behind it.

Beckham’s original MLS deal came with rights to purchase an MLS team, as we know. All his marketing muscle and the big Beckham machine can not only apply pressure in the right places, but it will look attractive to MLS in many ways, too.

But the league is committed to “NYC 2,” as it’s being called – a second club for the New York area, one that will actually play in New York (rather than New Jersey, where the Red Bulls call home). Then there is Orlando, a real darling among some expansion proponents for its aggressive efforts to insert itself in the MLS game.

(MORE: Orlando one step closer to MLS dream)

Major League Soccer desperately needs an imprint in the American southeast. Lots of good sports fans in Georgia, Florida and thereabouts couldn’t spell MLS if you spotted them two letters. Generally speaking, the league has alarmingly little awareness in markets with no club nearby. It’s a problem, and the MLS deciders know so.

While Orlando’s aggressive courtship might feel good – Who doesn’t like being desired, after all? – Brand Beckham could easily bully its way past Orlando’s more grass roots effort.

Or, MLS could go all in for Florida once again and add two clubs in the Sunshine State.

I mean, two MLS teams in Florida? Sure! What could possible go wrong?

  1. mkbryant3 - May 1, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Ah yes, but those early Florida years brought us Hudson’s sublime Miami Fusion. They were such a joy to watch. Heck, Beckerman was on that team! Did he even have his dreads yet?

  2. rg3isvictory - May 1, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    Hasn’t anybody learned that Florida doesn’t support franchises well, outside of Miami! Give Beckham his team and build this sport for once and all!

  3. tylerbetts - May 1, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    Oddly enough, I think you’d be better off with two Florida teams for expansion than just one. If it’s about building the brand of MLS, nothing does that quite like a real rival. And, if you put one team in Florida, the closest a rival could be in terms of distance would be … DC? I don’t imagine it’s easy for people in Florida to hate DC. Not in the natural way Portland and Seattle hate each other, or New York and Philly, or Cleveland and Chicago.

    • talgrath - May 2, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      A team in Atlanta or New Orleans would give you wider coverage and some already in place rivalries.

  4. drf19 - May 1, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    MLS should absolutely have two Florida teams – the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies. Two markets that MLS spit on in the 90s with awful(Fusion) and no(TB) ownership and horrible branding. They had such a phobia of all things NASL and the negative stigma associated with it that in the process they put off fans in two of the most successful, respected soccer markets in the country, with a fierce rivalry that’s one of the best in American soccer history.

    And in Fort Lauderdale they didn’t just stop at tossing away a popular team identity in favor of a new nickname like they did in TB or NY. They also insisted on naming the team after a city that is 30 miles away! That nonsensical decision was a slap in the face to Fort Lauderdale fans who had developed a great soccer tradition, and it handicapped the team at the gate from day one. That being said both FL teams weren’t notably worse than most of the teams in the league at the time. Of course several other unremarkable soccer markets got their teams saved at the whim of a Hunt or Kraft. They fold the FL clubs, blame the fans, fold and then give San Jose a team back, and now as a further insult the league is flirting with Orlando and Miami in our state.

    The current Fort Lauderdale Strikers are averaging more fans than Seattle did then they were in D2, and on numerous occasions have eclipsed single game MLS Fusion numbers, all while playing in the same stadium. They are also looking to build their own SSS right now. But all Garber wants to talk about is Miami.

    The Miami thing is a joke. Beckham or not the plan seems to be to play at Sun Life Stadium in some kind of partnership with the Dolphins, who can’t even run their main team right. 15,000(tops) people in attendance at a 75,000 seat football stadium? Really MLS? I thought you were past that kind of desperation. There is no suitable place to play in Miami and they will never approve any new stadium after the Marlins fiasco.

    If MLS wants to come back to the South Florida region to make amends, they’d be incredibly foolish to do it under any other banner than the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. And if they don’t, they won’t see me at any games. I’ll be at Lockhart or it’s replacement. All the Dax McCartys and Kenny Coopers in the world won’t sell me on a team that spits on local tradition. I won’t be having any more fun than I am now at Strikers games, so I’ll gladly follow a lower level team for life if need be.

    • wesbadia - May 2, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      You’re clearly both out of touch with the status of MLS’ expansion efforts as well as being almost completely ignorant of MLS history, in Florida and outside of it. Let me clarify some things for you…

      Firstly, the TB and Miami teams from the 90’s thru 01 were not “bad”. Tampa won the Shield in the inaugural season behind Lassiter’s insane scoring. They didn’t play ugly soccer, either. Miami won the Shield in their final year under Hudson and they also played a rather pretty version of the game. The interim years for Tampa weren’t great, but they certainly weren’t awful either. Miami’s history wasn’t long enough to really decide on them, four years is just not enough time.

      Secondly, Miami playing 30 miles away may have doomed an already-struggling club in 2001, but FC Dallas has faced the same problem being located in Frisco (35 miles north of their namesake city) for the past 9 seasons. Yes, attendance has struggled during most of that time, but reality has shown that when the on-field product is good, fans turn out.

      Thirdly, the SJ move to Houston and then their resurrection in 2008 was wholly separate from contraction in 2001. Apples and oranges. The reason SJ was moved was because the league was pushing them for a viable stadium plan which was not getting done. Houston offered more with AEG owning them, and so jumped on it. The only reason SJ rose like a phoenix from the ashes was that the fans clamored for their team back. The league made a mistake.

      Fourthly, it’s no secret that soccer’s profile has risen sharply and dramatically over the last decade. The reason the FL-based teams now are doing so well in comparison to the old 90’s era teams can be contributed to the overall profile being raised. And the advent of true, traveling supporter groups at almost all levels of the pyramid helps in galvanizing the fan base in a way that provides for true rivalries. Sure, the Rowdies/Strikers rivalry from the 70’s and 80’s was good, but nothing like it has been lately. And, arguably, Tampa and Orlando may have a more legitimate case for a rivalry than Tampa and Ft Lauderdale do.

      Lastly, why clamor for top flight American soccer in your area when you have the privilege of not only attending live games in your vicinity, but the pleasure of supporting a local club? It’s more than most areas of this country can say. And, if what the NASL says about their quality can be believed, you’re not really missing out on much other than DP-level stars. But, without a salary cap in the NASL, what’s really holding its teams back from acquiring those quality players other than owners’ bank accounts?

      Keep supporting your club wherever you’re at. It matters not if they’re playing in MLS or NASL or USL. It matters that the sport is getting more attention and more coverage.

      • wesbadia - May 2, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        One thing I forgot to mention: Garber has NOT been talking about Miami as much as you may think. He may have mentioned it a couple times, but the majority of his talk has been about NY2 or Orlando. Making it out to be that Miami’s all he talks about is very misleading and very ignorant.

    • vicesquad305 - May 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM

      Wow this is just dumb.

      The Strikers were never a great draw and still aren’t a great draw and they play too far north in Broward. Obviously anyone with a brain can see that Dade county has three times as many soccer fans. You never hear Barcelona and Chelsea announcing that they want to play in Weston or

      But that’s ok you can bring up irrelevant past soccer teams that “failed” from 40 years ago to make your point. But the fact is that true Division 1 soccer with a real operating budget has never been tried in Miami. Not once. Never.

      It has been tried in Broward and has failed each time.

  5. uncleed69 - May 2, 2013 at 2:16 AM

    Beckham alone is a brand. He’ll bring in sponsors, quality players and tons of fans.
    While I agree with drf19’s comments above concerning SunLife Stadium being a terrible place for an MLS team due to it’s size. I disagree with some of his ideas. More so because he works for the Strikers so he is biased and pro Strikers/NASL, so yeah, he wont go to an MLS game because of that.
    As an actual fan, I can tell you that if they bring in quality players, promote and create a great event. People will come no matter what they are called or where the stadium is located. (FIU Stadium could be an option too) Yes, the Strikers have tradition, etc. But with the current D2 players they have, you wont average more than the 4k at the end of the season. What good is it if the owners don’t even bring in quality teams to play friendlies against? What good does it do if people still don’t know the Strikers exist?
    Beckham, will ensure everyone knows his team exists. He’ll be everywhere and give the Strikers, Fusion or whatever he wants to call his team more headlines than the current Strikers could ever dream of.
    MLS knows South Florida is a huge media center (Be in Sports, Univision, Telemundo, Gol TV, etc are all based in South Florida). They want to tap into that. They regret leaving in the first place. A team in Miami would give the media instant access to players and MLS personnel and will give MLS the doors to sell their brand to Latin America and Europe.
    Beckham could put a team in Albuquerque if he wanted to and it would still be successful.

  6. dfstell - May 2, 2013 at 6:01 AM

    I laugh at this whole idea that clubs in Florida somehow count as covering “the southeast”. That would be like plopping one team in San Diego and saying that California is covered……and proceeding to act surprised when the people in Sacramento don’t care about San Diego and just watch EPL instead.

    • talgrath - May 2, 2013 at 3:34 PM

      It is more like a foothold than covering it, a starting point. Most major sports groups in America had their first southern team in Florida and then expanded to other cities nearby.

  7. chadmoon1 - May 3, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Florida and Atlanta are terrible sports markets. Look at the attendance for even the “big 4″ sports. It’s terrible. Even the NFL struggles when Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami are bad, which is most of the time. Baseball attendance is just awful in Florida.

    Atlanta? Please. They couldn’t even keep a hockey team. All of these places have NASL teams. Let them get a following and earn their way into MLS.

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