David Beckham's option to buy an MLS expansion franchise at a discounted rate expires at the end of the year. (Antoine Couvercelle/Tennis Magaz/Icon SMI)
David Beckham’s agreement with MLS to purchase an expansion team at a discounted rate of $25 million expires on Dec. 31, according to league commissioner Don Garber.
The term had been hinted at for some time, but Garber’s comment represented the first official confirmation. He was speaking to reporters in Orlando following a Tuesday event at which Orlando City was confirmed as a 2015 MLS expansion franchise.
Beckham wants to field his team in Miami. He’s been in South Florida in recent days meeting with potential investors and city officials. Although club ownership can be secured with the $25 million, Beckham needs more capital to secure the soccer specific stadium he hopes to build there.
The MLS board of governors will not approve Beckham as a club owner and partner until he finalizes a stadium plan. Garber said Tuesday that he could imagine Miami being aboard in 2017 or ’18, which would appear to give the former L.A. Galaxy midfielder ample time.
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But the Dec. 31 deadline looms large. Finalizing an investor group (Bolivian telecommunications billionaire Marcelo Claure appears to be on board) and reaching an agreement with local government officials on a stadium site doesn’t just happen overnight.
The league is trying to help – Garber met with Miami mayor Tomás Regalado on Saturday. Meanwhile, Beckham has retained Akerman LLP, a law firm, as a lobbyist in Miami-Dade County, according to the Florida Business Journal.
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MLS would not have offered Beckham the cut-rate option (New York City FC paid $100 million to join the league and Orlando City around $70 million) if it didn’t want the English icon aboard, and there’s almost no chance it will cut ties if he’s unable to secure a stadium deal over the next six weeks. SI.com understands that the league could either extend the initial agreement or renegotiate for a slightly higher expansion fee.
Meanwhile, the board of governors likely will decide next summer at the MLS All-Star Game in Portland how to align the league once Orlando and NYCFC come aboard in 2015. The easiest solution would be to send the Houston Dynamo back to the Western Conference, where it played from 2006 through 2010. The East then would have 11 clubs (with the inclusion of NYCFC and Orlando) and the West 10. Additional modifications would be required if and when Miami and Atlanta -- another expansion favorite -- come aboard. MLS plans to be at 24 teams by 2020.