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MIAMI (Reuters) - A group led by David Beckham has solidified plans to build a Miami stadium to house its Major League Soccer team on city-owned land next to the Miami Marlins baseball park.
In a statement after a conference call with Miami's mayor, a spokesman for the Miami Beckham United group confirmed the new site, saying "we're excited about sharing our plans with the city, county and community soon."
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado told a press conference that he spoke with one of Beckham's partners, Sprint Corp chief executive Marcelo Claure, a soccer-mad, Bolivian-born billionaire, who told him the group had chosen the new site.
"We're still in the early planning stages and several viable options still exist, but our preferred stadium location is the former Orange Bowl site," the Miami Beckham United group spokesman said. The site was formerly home of the city's famous Orange Bowl stadium, which was demolished in 2008 to make way for the Marlins baseball park.
Beckham's group, which includes "American Idol" creator and fellow Briton Simon Fuller, has explored stadium options for months and saw two earlier downtown waterfront sites blocked by local politicians and business interests.
The 40-year old former England soccer captain, who played several seasons for L.A. Galaxy late in his career, announced he would exercise his option to become the owner of a new MLS franchise in Miami in Feb. 2014 but struggled to find political support for a stadium plan.
He has said he wants to build a 20,000-seat stadium with $250 million in private financing and launch the team by 2018-2019.
The group previously spurned the Orange Bowl site, about two miles west of downtown, which was long promoted by city officials.
It sits in the heart of the city's heavily Hispanic Little Havana district, and while less glamorous than Miami's downtown waterfront it is close to a major expressway and could share existing parking with the Marlins stadium.
The MLS board of governors had begun to show signs of impatience with Beckham saying they aimed to make some decisions on new franchises in 2015.
The league grew to 20 teams this year with the addition of New York City FC and Orlando City FC, with Atlanta and a second LA-based team coming in 2017.
The league's commissioner, Don Garber, has said he believes Miami could be "a great MLS market" if Beckham can find the right venue.
Writing by David Adams; Editing by Bill Trott and Bill Rigby