BRIDGETOWN Barbados (Reuters) - Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber says an apparent lack of political will is making the bid to set up a franchise in Miami “complicated” and that David Beckham will need to find a stadium — or no club will be formed in the city.
Former England international Beckham has an option for an MLS franchise, which he has intended to use in Miami. But he has so far had two proposals for stadium sites rejected by local politicians.
“I’m neither optimistic (nor) pessimistic,” Garber told Reuters in an interview.
“It really is a very simple position we are in – if we can’t get the right stadium, we can’t go to Miami.
“We have been challenged to find a site that we believe will be successful.
“We had two sites on the waterfront. Both were supported by the city mayor and the county mayor, and then we lost that support, so it is clear to me that it is a complicated market in a wide variety of ways,” Garber said on the margins of the Soccerex Americas Forum, where in a panel discussion he had described Miami as a “conundrum”.
MLS will expand to Florida next year when Orlando City join the league, and the growth in the south-east will continue with the addition of Atlanta in 2017.
In both cases local governments backed new stadium plans and supported the creation of MLS teams in those cities, and Garber says that is the missing ingredient in Miami.
“Politically I am not sure that there is the same alignment on developing a vision in the way that there has been in a city like Orlando or a city like Atlanta.
“If we can’t find an alignment we aren’t going to be able to go there,” said Garber, who declined to comment on whether Beckham’s option could be transferred to another city if his Miami plans do not come to fruition.
The MLS chief said that the south-east, which saw a Miami and a Tampa Bay team removed from the then struggling league in 2002, was now a key part of the league’s growth plans.
“Many years ago when we were establishing our expansion plan, we knew we needed a team south of Washington D.C.. We have 80-100 million people who live in the south-east; there is lots of soccer interest, lots of demographic shifts where people from soccer-loving countries are coming in to cities like Orlando, Atlanta and Miami, so it has been a deep focus for us,” he said.
“Orlando City has hit the ground running. They have a passionate fan base that will be great supporters, Kaka is joining the team, we have got a strong ownership group.
“Then Atalanta joins in 2017, which will be the second team, and I would like to see a team in Miami if the stars could align and we were able to get the stadium that we believe is the driver of our success in that market.”
Reporting By Simon Evans, Editing by Neville Dalton