What were Beckham, Leiweke doing talking MLS expansion in Las Vegas?
David Beckham and Tim Leiweke are working together to finalize a stadium that will cement an MLS expansion team in Miami, but that's not stopping them from trying to help the Oakland Raiders relocate to Las Vegas–and potentially bring MLS to Sin City as well.
The two appeared with Raiders owner Mark Davis and Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson at a meeting in Las Vegas attended by Mayor Carolyn Goodman and members of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee on Thursday, speaking about the possibilities a new football stadium would mean for soccer in the city.
"I'm sure there's many people wondering why I'm here and questioning what my role is here," Beckham said in his opening remarks.
Beckham has a partnership with Las Vegas Sands, which he alluded to in his comments, and he expanded on how Vegas could be a major center for soccer, both domestically and internationally.
"To bring a great organization like the Raiders to something like Vegas is incredible, but it's bigger than that," Beckham said. "It's a bigger idea, it's about the MLS coming here, it's about bringing the biggest European teams here like Manchester United. As a soccer player to be able to come on an offseason trip to Vegas, to America, that's what you want as a player. ... You want an experience."
Leiweke followed Beckham, urging Mayor Goodman that a football stadium for the Raiders could pay dividends with an MLS expansion franchise.
"Major League Soccer, and the mayor knows this better than anyone, she's been pursuing it for a very long time, God bless you," Leiweke said. "You've had one issue here: a stadium. This resolves that issue. And there is a qualified, quantified ownership group that's prepared to step up and help you chase an MLS franchise. You're not the only one out there. As [MLS] commissioner [Don] Garber will tell you, there are a lot of cities now chasing those last four franchises. But with your stadium, with this ownership group and with the might and support of the Raiders, you will never have a greater opportunity to have an MLS team."
Leiweke went on to pitch the idea of weeklong fanfests for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona during summer preseasons for European clubs in addition to hosting MLS All-Star games and potential World Cup games.
"You have a chance to be a capital market for soccer in the world," Leiweke said.
"The World Cup is going to come back to the United States. We will bid for it aggressively in the future. Why not Las Vegas? Name me a more branded, well-reared city than Las Vegas in the eyes of the rest of the world."
Mayor Goodman then joked about trying to lure Leiweke and Beckham to join the Vegas MLS expansion train.
"As far as Major League Soccer, I mean, what great representation?" Goodman said. "We tried to get you here to give up what you're doing in Florida and join us here in Las Vegas."
Beckham later continued about MLS expansion and reaffirmed his commitment to his Miami project. According to SI's Grant Wahl, Beckham and his Miami group are targeting Miami real-estate giant Arthur Falcone to be the club's primary investor after talks with potential Qatari ownership fell apart.
"My commitment is to the MLS, I was lucky enough to purchase a franchise and I picked Miami which I'm very proud of, very excited about," Beckham said. "It's been a long process, I can't lie, but one that will continue.
"Great things take time, and I'm starting to realize that, especially over the last few years since we announced our ideas in Miami. So I understand that it takes time. What you have at the end of it is something that is so special.
"I'm excited about what we're doing in Miami. It's something that I'm very committed to, something that as an ambassador of the league now, as an owner of a franchise that is going to be very special for the people of Miami, I'm excited. I'm excited for the chance of an MLS team to be able to come to Vegas, it's special."