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Miami ready to arrive as global soccer city

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This weekend the Premier League on NBC Sports crew are heading to Miami Beach to host the second Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest of the season.

And Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino, along with several high-profile guests, will be arriving in a city which is primed to re-enter the discussion as a truly global soccer city.

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With David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF franchise arriving in Major League Soccer for March 2020, CONCACAF’s HQ in Miami, plus many of the biggest clubs in the world visiting Miami to play in friendly games each summer — and of course the USMNT and USWNT both playing regularly in South Florida — Miami is already well on its way to becoming a key U.S. hub for the global game.

But things are changing. Rapidly.

After the Miami Fusion folded in early 2002 and the heyday of the NASL long gone, there was a soccer void in MIA, but now teams are popping up in both MLS and USL, and if you wander around Miami you will spot jerseys from just about every club on the planet.

Peter Smith (who played for the U.S. Futsal Team in the 1989 world championships) is involved in soccer in the Miami area where he runs his company, Smash Soccer, a consultancy agency.

He has seen a huge upturn in the popularity of the sport in and around Miami in recent years.

“There will be a big turnout and a great atmosphere at the Clevelander because their is such a passion for the sport in Miami and South Florida,” Smith said. “Miami is more of an international city than an American city. You always see Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Juventus, Boca Juniors, River Plate and Flamengo jerseys, as well as plenty of Liverpool, Man United, Man City and Chelsea shirts and there is so much interest in the global game.

“Miami has such a mix of tourists and residents that you will always have PL interest in and around the bars and on the streets and there really is a growing interest in the Premier League. There are plenty of fan bars on gamedays, and in particular areas of Miami where you have specific bars for fans supporting clubs in South America and Europe. It’s a real mix and it is wonderful.”

[ MORE: How to attend the Miami Fan Fest ]

When you start to ask around the Miami area, it is clear soccer is on the minds of many.

Mike Ryan Ruiz is the Executive Producer for The Dan Le Batard Show and Host of Chelsea’s new U.S. focused podcast, “Chelsea Mike’d Up.” 

Aside from his focus on all things Premier League with the Blues, Ruiz believes the arrival of Inter Miami CF will be a key part of the puzzle in soccer getting back on the map in Miami.

“The soccer community is really buzzing down here for Inter Miami, even though it’s in Fort Lauderdale initially. Our supporters groups, I think, are going to be the talk of MLS. There are three main groups but the wildest is Vice City,” Ruiz explained. “I really think Inter is going to be a success story. The town is desperate for a winner and I think they’re well positioned even as an expansion team. We’ve been waiting on this for so long. It felt like the day might never come… but we’re here.”

It is sure to be one heck of a party at the Clevelander Hotel in Miami Beach this weekend as Miami continues to grow as a worldwide soccer destination.

All the details for our Fan Fest can be found right here.

Details for Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest in Miami Beach

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The latest Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest is coming to Miami Beach, Florida.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

NBC Sports and the Premier League are teaming up to put on the second event of the 2019-20 season after a wild weekend in Austin, Texas in October.

The video above will give you a taster of what to expect in Miami Beach, as it’s the fifth host city for the Fan Fest after Washington D.C., New York City, Boston and Austin.

Miami Beach will host the Premier League Mornings Live fan festival for the first time on December 14-15, 2019.

[ MORE: How to attend the Miami Fan Fest ]

Over two days the Fan Fest will take place at the historic Clevelander South Beach Hotel, and features live action from nine games across five match windows.

NBC Sports’ Premier League Mornings studio team of host Rebecca Lowe and analysts Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe will broadcast live from the event on NBCSN beginning at 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15.

They will be joined by several special guests throughout in a celebration of the Premier League for the whole of the USA to enjoy.

Southampton v. West Ham takes center stage on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC, while Arsenal v. Manchester City will be the main event on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and Telemundo.

Premier League clubs are joining the action at the event, which will feature special guests, club mascots, fan events, contests and much more. For fans interested in attending, here are all the details you need to know.

And here are some more details on what to expect this weekend:

  • In addition, Miami-based Telemundo Deportes – the exclusive Spanish language home of the Premier League in the U.S. – will have its biggest-ever fan festival presence with special production on location, including pre-game coverage featuring on-air experts Andres CantorManuel SolMiguel Gurwitz and Copan Alvarez alongside Ana Jurka, co-host of Telemundo Deportes’ news and entertainment nightly show, Titulares y Mas. Cantor will call Sunday’s Arsenal-Manchester City match (11:30 a.m. ET) live from the fan fest, where fans can observe his play-by-play and famous goal call in person.
  • Miami Heat all-star Jimmy Butler will join The 2 Robbies podcast this week to discuss his Premier League fandom. Additional activities NBC Sports’ PL team will participate in in Miami include: A tour of Little Havana in a classic car with Earle and Mustoe. A Miami cuisine tour and salsa dancing with Earle, Mustoe, and Martino. A cooking segment with Lowe and Chef James from Telemundo’s Un Nuevo Dia.
  • Joining for the early kick-off on Saturday, when league leaders Liverpool take on Watford at 7:30 a.m. ET, will be former Watford captain and USMNT star Jay DeMerit.
  • Former Premier League midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker will join the NBC Sports’ team for Saturday’s late kick-off when his old club West Ham United visit Southampton.
  • In addition to DeMerit and Reo-Coker, former Brighton & Hove Albion striker Peter Ward, former Leicester City defender Gerry Taggart and former Aston Villa forward Juan Pablo Angel will also be in attendance to catch up with fans and get involved in some of the free activations, which include: Dancakes pancake art, airbrush tattoos, Premier League shirt printing and Nike’s fast feet cages.

Beckham’s stadium complex for Inter Miami taking shape

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Piles of steel sit at one end of the property, waited to be lifted into place. Workers were going in all directions, some pounding nails into wood, others ready to pour concrete, others driving heavy equipment over piles of dirt.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

For now, it’s a construction site.

Before long, Inter Miami will call it home.

“Organized chaos,” Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough said as he took a look around the site of the now-demolished Lockhart Stadium where work on a new complex is happening 12 hours a day, seven days a week. “But we’ll be ready.”

These are hectic times for McDonough and Inter Miami, the team headlined by soccer icon David Beckham that will embark on its inaugural MLS season starting early in 2020. The team doesn’t have a coach yet. Or players. Or a schedule. Or even the first blade of grass for its new pitch.

Over the next few weeks, all those issues – and countless others – will be addressed. Construction is on schedule, with all signals pointing toward everything being ready for the team’s first home match that’s likely to come in March.

Still, that doesn’t do much to help McDonough’s sleep cycle.

“This takes up a ton of time and everything keeps me up at night,” McDonough said. “But it’s OK. We’re just on an accelerated timeline. There’s so much stuff going on. But this is expansion. It’s awesome. Everything we’re doing here, we’re trying to do it right.”

At any given time, there are about 225 workers on the job site – the whereabouts of all of them tracked with an app that gets data from a chip attached to the back of their hard hats. If there’s lightning in the area, work gets halted for 30 minutes until the cell passes. And that’s a big deal, because even with next season still months away every minute counts.

Nothing is ready, yet – but it will be.

“The way it was built out, we’re thinking of the athlete first from the minute they walk in,” said Jacklyne Ramos, the team’s vice president of communications as she stood inside what will be the building containing the locker room and other key spaces for the team. “The main stadium, that’s for the games. Where we are now, this is where they’ll live.”

The Associated Press got a tour on Monday of what will be Inter Miami’s inaugural home. The shell of the team’s headquarters – locker rooms, equipment room, dining area, coach’s office, what will become the sports performance lab, the academy workout facilities and more – is coming together. Every detail has been thought of; the walk from the players’ parking lot to the building will be short, the training room will be small (“I don’t want them comfortable in there,” McDonough said), and an area will be built just off the outside wall of the locker room to air out cleats after training sessions.

“They’ll never be in the building,” McDonough said. “Boots can stink.”

Beckham spent about five years trying to get MLS back in South Florida, and after many sites were considered – there’s still plans for the team to eventually play in another stadium that Beckham and his partner Jorge Mas want built in Miami – they settled on the former Lockhart site. Lockhart is where the MLS’ Miami Fusion played from 1998-2001, eventually folding because of poor attendance.

The centerpiece of everything is the 18,000-seat stadium, and parts of what will become the field are already largely marked off. Drainage was installed first, followed by four inches of rock for a base. From there, sprinklers go into place and four thin pieces of wood are set in place to mark where the goalposts will go. About a foot of soil will be added in the coming weeks, watered and compacted and graded. Sod is scheduled to go in Nov. 14; from there, it’ll be protected and fenced off and finally, what now seems like an oversized sand pit right now will look like a place to play soccer.

Behind that are more fields, including a turf one can be used for high school football and other events. The other half-dozen grass fields will be for training and the team’s affiliate clubs.

A coach will be hired soon. A roster is coming. There are plans for a soft opening a few weeks before the season and then, when the first match is played all the mess and chaos will be forgotten.

“I wasn’t ready for this. I’m still not,” McDonough said. “I’m learning as we go. Conduits, positioning of poles, there’s so many things that you don’t realize until you live it. But that’s what it takes and we’re getting it done.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Beckham stadium site has unsafe arsenic levels

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MIAMI (AP) An environmental analysis shows the proposed site for David Beckham’s Major League Soccer stadium in Miami is far more toxic than previously expected.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The Miami Herald reports the analysis found arsenic contamination reaching more than twice the legal limit, and surface-level soil samples containing hazardous debris at the Melreese golf course site, where people have played golf for more than 50 years.

The consultant’s report says almost the entire site near Miami International Airport is contaminated by ash from a municipal incinerator shut down long ago.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Monday night that team officials said the findings could increase cleanup costs to $50 million at the site.

The sprawling $1 billion commercial and stadium complex would serve as home to Beckham’s MLS team, Inter Miami .

Beckham dreams of bringing Ronaldo, Messi to MLS, Miami

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David Beckham is dreaming big for his Major League Soccer franchise in Miami.

Really big.

Hot on the heels of announcing that he hopes Inter Miami CF will play at a revamped Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale for their first two seasons in MLS, Becks has been chatting about potential players he’d like to bring to MIA.

Here is what Beckham had to say via our partners at Sky Sports:

“Everyone has their wish list, everyone does, but if you look at the way Leo and Cristiano are still playing, even at what you might think is the later stage of their careers, I don’t see it ending for them,” Beckham said. “They’re playing at such a high level that it’s hard to see them leaving the clubs they are at, but we will see. You never know what can happen in football.”

Now, we all knew this kind of talk was coming. Beckham added Inter Miami are looking closely at players to sign and are speeding things up with just 12 months until their first MLS game.

Beckham’s name has a certain pull and if he is the co-owner of a franchise it is one for reason: to make it as successful and glamorous as possible. The fact he owns a team in Miami which will enter MLS in 2020 amplifies the glitz and glamour.

Would Ronaldo and/or Messi need a lot of convincing to head to Miami for the final few years of their careers? Probs not.

But it seems like Ronaldo would be a lot more attainable than Messi. At least right now, and especially when you factor in that his contract with Juventus is up in the summer of 2022.

That should line up perfectly with the timeframe for Miami’s proposed soccer-specific stadium deal in Freedom Park being ready for Ronaldo to call it home.

Because, let’s be honest, can you see one of these guys playing in front of 18,000 fans at a temporary home at Lockhart Stadium? Yeah, not going to happen.

Ronaldo is 34. Messi is 31. Who’s to say they both won’t play for Miami three years apart? Ronaldo has already said he wants to play until he is 40, and it is highly likely he will. As for Messi, he’s been a one-club man and it is unclear whether or not he will see much point in not playing for Barcelona his entire career.

With the Man United connection, Ronaldo heading to Miami to play for Beckham makes so much sense on so many levels.