638 days — that’s how long it’s been since Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber and global superstar David Beckham stood on a stage in Miami and announced the latter had exercised his option to purchase an MLS franchise, which he intended to one day bring to South Florida.
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Checking in on Beckham’s Miami project 638 days later, they’re, essentially, right where they were back on Feb. 5, 2014: without a guaranteed place in the league because a suitable stadium deal continues to allude the Miami Beckham United investment group.
Beckham and Co. made the wisest possible decision in bringing aboard former LA Galaxy and Toronto FC parent company head honcho Tim Leiweke, who’s already been plenty busy trying to broker a stadium deal on a patch of land next to Marlins Park, home of Miami’s Major League Baseball team.
Leiweke spoke to the Miami Herald editorial board on Thursday and shed some brutally honest light on the situation at hand — quotes from the Miami Herald:
“They know what we’re doing and unfortunately they’ve let that create an absolutely unrealistic conversation. They can absolutely blow this deal up, and they probably will blow this deal up. We’re willing to overpay. We just don’t want to be the stupidest guys on the face of the earth.”
He faulted Miami Beckham United mostly for the team’s problems, saying “this has not been the smartest negotiation I’ve been a part of.”
“If we don’t have a deal by that MLS board meeting it’s up to the commissioner and the board to decide what happens to this option. But I am worried. It’s been a long time since this has been discussed and we’ve been unable to come to them with a viable plan that works. If at the end of the day, whether it be the politics or the greed of the situation we’re facing makes this unable to happen … then I’ll let the commissioner decide. But I don’t like those odds and it makes me very nervous about MLS in Miami.”
This is a pretty smart — if not extremely obvious — play from Leiweke and Co., as going public with the above comments accomplishes two things: 1) it buys them additional time and good will, now with Leiweke on board, from MLS executives and Garber, which it now sounds like they sorely need; 2) it really turns up the pressure on the folks holding onto the pieces of land for “unrealistic” sums of money.
Time is undoubtedly running out on Beckham’s attempt to bring MLS back to Miami, with 23 franchises currently already in existence or officially admitted to the league with stadium deals in place and/or in progress (Atlanta, Minnesota and Los Angeles). Sacramento remains ready to build a brand new stadium the second MLS says “jump,” while the city of San Antonio announced on Wednesday a plan for stadium expansion and a pathway to bring a fourth MLS team to the state of Texas.