On Thursday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber held his state of the league address. In it he was asked more questions about David Beckham’s continued difficulties in Miami than any other single topic. I was one of about a hundred writers from around North America on the teleconference and the takeaway was clear- Miami and Beckham do not have much more time to get this sorted out if they are to make this round of MLS expansion.
One of the persistent themes of the conference was that USL’s Sacramento Republic have emerged as a viable fall back plan for MLS to still add a new team in the next few season’s if Miami cannot find a stadium location. In recent years the formula of teams moving up from the lower divisions of American soccer, USL or NASL to MLS has yielded some of the league’s most successful clubs commercially – Portland, Orlando, Seattle, Vancouver and Montreal. In 2017, Minnesota United FC ,the most professionally run in the second-tier NASL will join MLS.
Here were some takeaways on Miami for the conference:
All are quotes from Garber – my analysis is below each quote.
“Long term I really believe the (Sacramento) Republic will be in this league.”
Kartik’s take – the formula of taking lower division sides that are well-established to MLS makes Sacramento a no-brainer.
“Difficult to be the last league in and generate major urban projects”
Kartik’s take – This is true and it is a combination of public weariness of major stadium projects as well as a simple lack of land. In Washington DC, however the bias of the local paper (The Washington Post) and many local politicians against soccer and toward baseball cost MLS the chance to get its then flagship team DC United a stadium before the newer baseball team the Nationals. So sometimes soccer as a foreign sport which more traditional American politicians either loathe or don’t understand gets the short end of the stick.
“Miami is not the most difficult stadium situation in league history” (Red Bull New York was – they eventually got a stadium built in Harrison, NJ next to Newark Int’l Airport after about a decade of uncertainty.)
Kartik’s take – While currently true, Miami is a close second.
Garber stated Miami stadium situation will have to be figured out “soon” and Sacramento could replace them
Kartik’s take – This was the first acknowledgement that Miami might simply be replaced by another city in this round of expansion
“Miami could have been team 20.”
Kartik’s take – the goal was always to have Miami in sooner rather than later, even before Orlando City SC.
“If they cannot finalize their deal for a stadium they will not have an MLS team.”
Kartik’s take – New York City has no stadium deal in place even after playing a year and Orlando City SC began MLS play without the funding secured for a stadium. Seems like a double-standard to me.
“We have been focused on having a team in Miami since we left (2001 when the Fort Lauderdale based Fusion FC were contracted).
Kartik’s take – This combined with Garber’s comments about San Jose losing the Quakes but the team returning to the Bay Area when a stadium plan was in place indicated to me that Miami will get a team again at some point – it just might not be now.
“Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York are the most important markets to be in for the emerging America.”
Kartik’s take – Again a clear indication that MLS will be in Miami regardless of Beckham’s final outcome – it might just be an even more belated return.