By Curtis Reed (The Homegrown Player)
I tried hard, really, really hard, to get excited about the David Beckham-Miami expansion announcement but as hard as I tried (seriously, I tried a lot of things) in the end I jut can’t bring myself to get excited. I love MLS and I have a strong appreciation for David Beckham the player and public figure, but even that combination wasn’t enough to get me thrilled. The main reason holding me back is that aside from David Beckham and his co-owner Marcelo Claure, expansion to Miami is frought with too many risks.
All one has to do is look at the current Miami sporting scene to see a bunch of red flags. The Miami Dolphins don’t have as strong of a following as they used to, the Panthers are the joke of the NHL, the Marlins have a brand new stadium that is never filled, and the Heat, despite being the NBA champions and featuring the league’s best player still have to have the occasional gimmick to bring fans into the arena. How can the MLS team in Miami expect to do any better, especially when in the eyes of many major sports outlets it isn’t in the same leagues as the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL?
One of the things consistently brought up during the press conference and in interviews surrounding the announcement is how much Miami is a soccer city. That is true in a lot of regards. South Florida has produced a number of players for the National Team and many in the ex-patriate community follow top teams overseas. But there in lies another problem. With the England, Spanish, French, and Italian leagues all available on cable there is more competition for attention for the new team.
The counter-argument to that is that Miami will be big players in the Designated Player market and will possibly bring in the likes of Ronaldo or some other top player when the team finally kicks off. That would be a star draw for sure but it wouldn’t be a cure. In fact, Miami has to bring in players of that caliber or no one will notice them. That puts Miami in a tough position. Plus, this is not the days of the old NASL where the premier players all landed on the Cosmos, Miami is going to face tough competition from New York, L.A., and Seattle.
An additional worry is that players may mistakenly think that coming to Miami will be a semi-retirment. MLS just got over that attitude and it would be a regression for it to pop up again. Further, top players overseas are going to ctoninue to want to play Champions League and against the top players. The way the current MLS salary cap is structured they will not have the same quality of depth around them.
Then there is the issue of the downtown stadium. Claure has repeatedly said that the team will not begin play until they have a stadium and an opportunity to build the team. Current plans have the team with a waterfront stadium. If it happened it would be a terrific boon to the franchise and MLS. But if you look back at MLS’s track record of getting downtown stadiums over the past few years it isn’t that impressive. Seattle and Vancouver already had built-in venues, as did Portland with a little remondeling. But downtown venues for New England and D.C. United have been stuck in the mud, so was MLS’s attempt to build a stadium in Queens. There is no quarantee that a waterfront stadium will happen. If it doesn’t than it is another major blow to the franchise.
Overall, it comes down to this. If the club has everything go its way than they will be a strong franchise and a consistent sell-out, something that is becoming a norm among new teams. On the flip side, even if they have a few things go wrong it could prevent them from having the impact they want and would leave MLS with another sick franchise. In the end there are simple too many risks—despite the Beckham factor—to take the risk.