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Beckham exercises MLS ownership option, but Miami expansion not yet complete

David Beckham has exercised his option to become an MLS owner and plans to put the franchise in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP) David Beckham, center, has exercised his option to become an MLS owner and plans to put the franchise in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

David Beckham and MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed on Wednesday morning what just about everyone has suspected for months – that the retired midfielder intends to own an expansion team in Miami.

The pair was joined by Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez at an art museum not far from the PortMiami location where they reportedly hope to construct a stadium.

The lack of that facility is what stands between Beckham and his dream of club ownership. Wednesday’s news conference was as much pep rally as an announcement as the English icon, the commissioner and the mayor began stumping for a stadium.

Garber has said in the past that, "We can't go to Miami without the right stadium solution,” and it was unclear on Wednesday what that solution might be.

“We don’t want public funding. We will fund the stadiums ourselves. We’ve worked very hard to get this stage where we can fund the stadium ourselves,” Beckham said.

Garber said the club "will need a world-class, state-of-the-art soccer stadium" that, if built, "will be an incredible showcase of what's so beautiful and special about this city."

Acquiring the land, however, likely will require government help. Gimenez said there were several county commissioners in attendance on Wednesday, hinting at their support. Beckham, who held an option to buy into MLS at a cut-rate price, will be well financed. He is backed by long-time manager Simon Fuller and confirmed Wednesday that he's also working with Bolivian telecommunications billionaire Marcelo Claure.

"We started our negotiations last week and the start of the negotiations is what is the process of negotiations, so that’s where we stand right now," Gimenez said. "We know we have to get rolling on it. There's a time crunch to identify a site and get control of a site so we can begin process of construction of a stadium ... We are willing partners. We're very grateful that David Beckham and MLS has chosen Miami."

Garber said Beckham "had lots of cities across the U.S. and Canada to choose [from]" but that he chose Miami "because he believes in this city."

If the local government and public believes in Beckham (the local press clearly does -- most of Wednesday's questions were fawning), his club likely would become the league's 22nd following next year's addition of New York City FC and Orlando City. Beckham's team could begin play in 2016 or 2017, according to reports, and theoretically could kick off in a temporary facility.

"This is obviously going to take time," Beckham said. "The next major thing is going to happen now is getting the right partners, getting the right investors. Once we have the right investors and once we've sat down with the mayor and commissioners and we have the site that we hopefully want, because we want to build a stadium in Miami ... The commissioners, the board, the mayor, have promised us -- I can say 'promised', I think -- that we will be downtown. I think it's important that we are in this part of the city ... Obviously we can’t build a stadium in six months but once we have the site, once we work with the mayor and his commissioners and the people of Miami, we’ll be quick. We’ll be very quick, hopefully."

The area previously was represented by the Miami Fusion, which launched in 1998 in Fort Lauderdale and won the Supporters Shield in 2001. The following winter, however, the Fusion was contracted along with the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Orlando will mark the league's return to the Southeast. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank also is pursuing an expansion team.

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