Best of 2017, #3: Miami MLS Makes Progress, But Still Not Final

Beckham Miami Stadium Rendering

We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #3: Miami Beckham United‘s push for a Miami MLS expansion franchise makes progress, but is still not finalized. 

It has been an eventful year for Miami’s Major League Soccer bid.

Although it seems like it has been going on forever, 2017 has seen a series of developments that see the MLS in Miami closer to fruition than at any time in the past.

It’s still not a done deal, however.

The ownership group in Miami, led by former MLS superstar David Beckham, and driven by his agreement with the league as a player for a discounted franchise fee, has been trying to secure a stadium deal in Miami since Beckham exercised his purchasing option in 2014.

Three different stadium sites, PortMiami, downtown Miami, and Little Havana, were proposed and later rejected for various financial, legal or community issues. This year, though, the group made significant progress on a stadium deal, which seems to be the last major hurdle to the announcement of a Miami MLS franchise.

A new stadium site in the city’s Overtown neighborhood has been secured this year with the purchase of six acres of private land and three acres of public land. The plan was subject to public comment, and it has successfully gained the support of the county government, with city government support still needed for zoning changes. The plan also withstood a lawsuit from Bruce Matheson, though that suit is still on appeal.

Despite the lingering issues, barring some unforeseen development, this stadium plan seems destined to succeed. It probably must succeed if the ownership group is to be awarded a franchise for Miami.

In fact, the other major story on Miami’s MLS bid this year was the changing nature of the ownership group itself, Miami Beckham United. At the beginning of the year Todd Boehly was brought in and later announced as a majority owner and controlling partner. The addition of Boehly, a part-owner of MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers and chairman and CEO of Eldridge Industries, brought much needed capital to the group and was viewed as a positive development.

At the end of the year, however, Boehly dropped out of the ownership group, and was replaced by Jorge and José Mas, Miami-based leaders of telecommunications giant MasTec, and Japanese entrepreneur and SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, reportedly one of the wealthiest men in Japan. The new members were approved by the MLS Board of Governors in December.

While Miami’s bid has been languishing with legal and governmental wrangling over a stadium deal, this year has seen the bids of several other candidates for MLS expansion come together. Among an original twelve bids, four finalists were chosen, and Nashville was announced as the league’s 24th franchise in December.

Among all of this expansion excitement, however, Miami has been absent. It has long been assumed to be the next MLS franchise, but at the end of 2017, the deal is perhaps closer than ever, but still not official. The league announced that it would not make any more franchise decisions this year.

The MLS did provide hope for Miami in a statement in December that “A further announcement on the team is expected to be made prior to the start of the 2018 MLS regular season.” It is not clear when the franchise will begin play if it is approved, but is possible that a temporary stadium could be used initially, not unlike the situation in Minnesota, while the new stadium is built.

Though it’s an old story by now – MLS, Beckham and Miami was again a big story in 2017. The ball has not crossed the goal line, but with Beckham on the ball, the goal seems likely.

Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List:

#4: MLS Expansion
#5: Columbus Crew SC Explores Austin Move
#6: USL Expansion
#7: SoccerCity on Hold
#8: Louisville City FC Pitches a New Stadium
#9: Banc of California Stadium
#10: Phoenix Rising FC Explodes on Pro Soccer Scene

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August Publications