Posted December 31, 2013

MLS expansion update: Miami making progress despite deadline, Minneapolis in play

MLS Expansion
David Beckham is spearheading a group that's trying to bring MLS soccer to MIami. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

David Beckham is spearheading a group that’s trying to bring MLS soccer to MIami. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

It appears that New Year’s Eve will come and go without an MLS expansion announcement from David Beckham, but missing the league’s Dec. 31 “deadline” almost surely won’t have any tangible impact on his push for a Miami stadium deal.

Securing land and funding for a new facility in time to meet the original terms of Beckham’s $25 million expansion option was always going to be a tall order for the former midfielder, who retired only seven months ago. Beckham has been working with Bolivian telecommunications mogul Marcelo Claure and continues to make progress with local authorities, sources tell SI.com.

Two weeks ago, Miami-Dade County commissioners unanimously authorized mayor Carlos Gimenez to negotiate with Beckham and potential contractors, and by all accounts those talks are going well. There’s confidence at the league level that the details will be worked out.

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Perhaps Beckham was overly optimistic in late November, when he told Sky Sports, “Hopefully there will be an announcement before the new year.” But he certainly wasn’t desperate. MLS has no plans to cut Beckham loose on Wednesday and start from scratch in South Florida. In fact, commissioner Don Garber and deputy commissioner and president Mark Abbott are on vacation, not waiting by the phone to hear if the ex-player and the mayor have broken ground.

Beckham’s cut-rate entry fee might rise next month, but MLS remains committed to bringing Miami aboard once a stadium plan takes shape.

“We are very excited about the opportunity of David putting together an ownership group and finalizing a stadium site in downtown Miami so that we could end up having what we hope would be our 22nd team in a city that’s one of the largest in the country and has a strong and passionate soccer fan base. But there’s a lot of work that needs to happen,” Garber said this month.

“We can’t go to Miami without the right stadium solution,” he added. “David understands that. The city understands that. That is an indisputable fact. We can’t have different rules for Miami than we’d have for any other city.”

Miami and Atlanta are expected to be the league’s 22nd and 23rd clubs. Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who hopes to field an MLS team in a new retractable-roof stadium scheduled to open in 2017, has been in talks with the league for years. Falcons executive VP and chief marketing officer Jim Smith, formerly the president and GM of the Columbus Crew, attended the MLS Cup final.

Also in Kansas City for the league title game was a group that might be interested in bringing MLS to Minneapolis — and it wasn’t the Vikings. While Beckham’s Miami entry appears to be a matter of “when” and not “if”, there’s an intriguing contest taking shape in the Twin Cities, where the construction of a new soccer-ready NFL stadium may have lit a fire under the owners of local NASL club Minnesota United.

The Vikings expect to open their $1 billion palace in 2016, and the organization claimed last week that “Conversations regarding securing a soccer team for this market have heated up between the Vikings and MLS representatives.” A team spokesperson stood by that characterization when contacted by SI.com on Monday afternoon.

According to multiple sources, however, MLS officials have spent more time with United than the Vikings over the past several weeks. The second-tier club, which won the NASL championship in 2011, is owned by Bill McGuire, a physician and the former CEO of UnitedHealth Group. United plays at the National Sports Center in Blaine, some 14 miles north of downtown Minneapolis, but has acknowledged “preliminary” interest in pursuing an urban, soccer-specific stadium. Representatives were in K.C. to take a look at Sporting Park.

United’s long-term viability might depend on beating the Vikings to the MLS punch, one source said, and it seems McGuire has found an ally in the Minnesota Twins. The baseball team’s president, Dave St. Peter, joined the United contingent and the head of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority three weeks ago in Kansas City.

Owned by investor Jim Pohlad, the Twins are part of a consortium called 2020 Partners aiming to spur development in the area around Target Field, Target Center (the NBA arena) and the Minneapolis Farmers Market. It certainly wouldn’t be cheap to build there, but Pohlad’s resources and relationships might make the difference for McGuire and United. Twins ownership has been interested in MLS for a while, a source told SI.com.

In September, 2020 Partners issued a statement “encourag[ing]” United to “explore the Farmers Market site for a soccer stadium as the potential anchor for development of a multi-use complex.”

The Twin Cities has had a team playing at the lower levels of the U.S. pyramid since 1994 — two years before MLS kicked off. After two decades, it seems a race to the top has begun.

20 comments
90299759
90299759

Nice! Bringing MLS to the twin cities is a fantastic idea, there is a ton of soccer and soccer fanbase potential here. I would love to see them make a team with the vikings and the new stadium, it would add a whole new factor to MLS. MLS expansion is looking pretty good right now.

Brant
Brant

please god no - not atlanta...  they've failed every soccer venture they've ever tried, and yes, the Silverbacks can win games but can't attract any sort of crowd.

Matthew W
Matthew W

Oh god please no MLS expansion! The league is diluted enough with the number of current teams. Adding more simply makes an already less than average product worse. 


Miami? Been there done that. Its already failed MLS....don't waste your time (again) with Miami. Florida has proven over and over that it isn't the sports supporter its state population suggests. Outside of Florida and Florida State football, nothing matters in Florida. 


If MLS absolutely has to expand then they need to introduce relegation.

thebigdawg3
thebigdawg3

NFL is over.  MLS will be the top dog in the USA within 25 years.

Smoothkaos
Smoothkaos

This rapid expansion is what got MLS jacked up in the first place in the late 90's.  Why can't they understand that there is NOT, wait, I'll spell it out.... n-o-t_e-n-o-u-g-h_t-a-l-e-n-t to field a competitive soccer team in all of these cities!  Yes, the cities have the interest to support a team by the market but nobody and I mean NOBODY will consistently fill a stadium to watch a bunch of scrubs kick a ball around the field and not score.  Thank God I'm a Sporting fan and don't have to endure this mess this time around while at the bottom of the heap with my team.  The former Wizards did and were at the bottom and us Kansas Citians damn near lost the team because of bad expansion moves by MLS.  All I have to say is I'm glad NBC is broadcasting BPL games now because MLS, already way behind in talent, is just going to get worse. 

TwitSpif
TwitSpif

Five Major League teams in a market that size is two too many. Plus, I don't like MLS teams partnering with NFL teams. They will sabotage it from the inside. (I guess all sabotage comes from the inside.)

stancollins
stancollins

@Smoothkaos  "This rapid expansion is what got MLS jacked up in the first place in the late 90's. "


Huh?


MLS expanded only one time in the late 90s (and not again until 2005).  It went from 10 teams to 12.


Now, there are a couple of reasons why it might ought to have waited (a: the new owner wasn't wealthy enough to finance the team the way it needed to be and b: the league ought to have prioritized getting rid of the league-operated teams ahead of expanding).  But those reasons don't apply today.

usamnt
usamnt

@SmoothkaosThis is a global marketplace. There is plenty of talent. It is connecting to the team that is key. You think people in central and south america - outside of Brazil and Argentina - don't support their teams because the talent is 'crap' and it isn't as good as the EPL? Investors see the future, and are rushing to get in place. MLS got all jacked up because the league didn't have a vision that paralleled leagues around the world, and no one saw how a league w/ shootouts was going to EVER retain or get top tier talent. Beckham and Henry have changed that. People like you that call the league a failure and don't support it if the talent is not as good as EPL - are the problem.

FloydMacGillicutty
FloydMacGillicutty

@TwitSpif What are you talking about?  Denver has a market that's considerably smaller than Minneapolis/St Paul, and it supports 5 major league teams no problem.

eliar3
eliar3

@RomarioDelLago Agreed.  People need to be reminded of the original NASL days at the Met with the Kicks.  We were home to one of the best and most unheard-of players in history - #11 Ace Ntseolengoe - due to FIFA's well-intentioned Anti-Apartheid efforts.  Also had a WC Goalie as well (Canada's Tino Lettieri went to Mexico86).

Smoothkaos
Smoothkaos

@stancollins I should've used the words 'grew too large' and/or the MLS was just too big too early for it's own good instead of expansion, apologies. I'm not sure why everybody's thinking here is so unbalanced. Let me make this clear.  I love MLS like everybody else.  I want it to succeed.  I just disagree that expansion is going to make that occur at this time.  Yes, the league is successful and is the 3rd largest pro league in the US as far as attendance numbers.  I love all of that.  What I'm saying is the individual talent/quality as a whole of all MLS teams is not on par with the leagues around the world, yet. 


Nobody can tell me that our best MLS teams could compete in a league with even the worst teams of La Liga, BPL, Bundesliga, Serie A in Italy nor Brazil.  Our teams are more English Championship quality or Bunda 2.  It's not a bad thing and again I support Sporting KC like no other but I'm ok with them not on the level of the top teams of the best leagues of the world.  I think on any given day our top teams can beat a top team in one of those leagues and I'll never forget the KC Wizards beating Man U in 2010!  I'm not delusional that having more teams in MLS is going to improve the quality of our teams though.  There just aren't enough good/great players or money to go around except for the 1 or 2 DP's a team can get.  That holds the MLS back.  Players can be found yes, but quality players are going to play elsewhere in their prime first.  Henry and Beckham and MANY other DP's came here AFTER their primes.  Sheesh

Smoothkaos
Smoothkaos

@usamnt Of course it is but the talent level is already low enough in MLS that the quality is affected.  They have salary caps and such that prohibit getting all of those talented fellas in the rest of the world.  If it was that easy why doesn't every MLS team already stock up with those higher priced players now?!  I'm not saying the league is a failure.  It is doing quite well in its infancy of the correct way of building it up but to all of a sudden start expanding like crazy is ridiculous.  Do some homework on what the smart media that knows soccer in the world-wide marketplace and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Look at the big picture

TomCarothers
TomCarothers

@FloydMacGillicutty @TwitSpif If Minnesota Kicks Mark II had it's own field in a central location (not the new Vikings stadium, which will be far too cavernous), it could most certainly work here. Heck, we've got oodles of people going to indoor lacrosse games! Don't need expansion either -- just relocate Chivas USA. We'll double their attendance easy. Definitely agree that I don't want the Wilfs owning this team.

MIsaiasDasNeves
MIsaiasDasNeves

@Smoothkaos @stancollins What the eff is BPL... if you know as much about the game as you say you do, you'd know it's the EEEE   PPPP  LLLL  as in ENGLISH (not British) Premier League...sheesh.

Davos1
Davos1

I she this rule. Once someone brings up pro/rel for the US, everything else they say should be ignored. It ain't happening. We aren't Europe. Remember that.

Smoothkaos
Smoothkaos

@usamnt and for you or anybody else to say that the US and its fans will support a terrible team long term is delusional.  I love MLS.  Plain and simple.  There are many many of us fans in the US that also love MLS but to say that they'll support their teams the way a South American or Argentine club is supported by their local fans with giant stadiums when the team has a hundred years of history and heritage and 5+ generations of families supporting it is silly. Even the smaller teams are happy to have their local support in LOWER tiered leagues of relegation. History has already shown that the MLS has to be careful in how many teams it has, see Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion that are now defunct.  Tampa even won the Supporter's Shield in '96 and still bowed out.  Now they're wanting to put yet another team in Miami, one in Atlanta, one in San Antonio/Austin, one in Minneapolis, & one in St. Louis with new one's already created this year in NYCFC & Orlando.  Why not just take their time like they have been this go-around and just create a relegation system with NASL and USL Pro so teams can build up and make it to MLS on their own each season instead of getting stuck trying to compete against larger markets like LA and NY as well as established markets like SKC, Seattle, Houston, Portland, Real Salt Lake, Colorado, Philly, etc etc etc?  Europe, South America, heck the entire world has already invented the wheel to support a league so why not just follow that model?

Davos1
Davos1

The current NASL doesn't have a brand. Unless you mean crappy D2 league no one cares about.

spikevicious
spikevicious

@TomCarothers @FloydMacGillicutty @TwitSpif 

Fine, bring back the Minnesota Kicks to gain entry to MLS.  But if Minny United is going to use NASL to punch its ticket to MLS, F them.  The pro/rel ship has sailed in this country, but NASL should have the opportunity to grow its own brand without any interference from MLS.  But your idea is top shelf:  take Chivas, please!