Should Beckham move MLS franchise to Las Vegas?

Kristan Heneage 16:06 19/02/2017
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  • David Beckham

    On February 5, 2014, David Beckham had a big announcement — he was bringing Major League Soccer to Miami.

    The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star had negotiated a clause into his LA Galaxy contract that allowed him to purchase a franchise at any time for a set fee of $25 million, and after retiring in 2013 he decided ownership would be his next step.

    Clad in a tailored suit and speaking with a mix of ambition and humility, Beckham said, “We don’t want public funding…we want to create a stadium, we want to create a soccer team — a football club — that is a people’s football club, it’s as simple as that.”

    Unfortunately for Beckham three years have passed since that day with little progress to show for it. Given that the league is said to be growing impatient with delays, rumours surfaced in December that he may be considering a switch to Las Vegas. but is it a good idea?


    No competition

    Should David Beckham’s MLS franchise eventually spawn in Miami, it will be operating within a competitive market for football.

    No one argues that Miami’s large Hispanic population makes it a good place for a football team, but the presence of Miami FC — fronted by Alessandro Nesta — means Beckham has already lost out on a number of potential fans.

    Perhaps the more galling aspect of this is that Nesta’s team was announced after Miami Beckham United. Furthermore, Miami FC has already completed one season in the rival North American Soccer League and are currently preparing for year two.

    If Beckham was to move to Las Vegas he wouldn’t have any notable competition. Their closest rivals, the brilliantly named Las Vegas Mobsters, play in the amateur PDL and at present play in a venue that only holds 1,000 people.

    That means he would be the dominant force in the region which will make it easier to cultivate a fan base.

    A stadium in downtown Vegas is achievable

    One of the major stumbling blocks for Beckham’s franchise has been securing land for a stadium. His ownership group failed on three separate occasions to secure land, and despite finally buying some land in Overtown, Miami, last year they still need an additional three acres.

    Compare that with the situation in Las Vegas, where the city’s Mayor, Carolyn Goodman, actually backed a recent proposal from the Oakland Raiders. Interestingly, Beckham took part in the pitch, and discussed the idea of bringing European teams to the city for exhibition games.

    However, it’s worth considering his own team for the stadium especially when you consider that its location on the Las Vegas strip will appease league commissioner Don Garber.

    Garber has been keen for all new MLS franchises to have downtown stadiums for accessibility reasons, which makes sense. A stadium that is close to the city’s main attractions should make it tempting to Beckham, with public transport routes also advantageous.

    It’s a better fit for his needs

    Of the many stereotypes about Las Vegas few ring more true than the fact it is filled with money. A rich place full of people looking to spend money that is certainly something Beckham needs right now.

    In recent months his stadium efforts have been hampered by what his people describe as a ‘need for further investment’. Realistically, Beckham is being smart and not looking to sink his fortune into a football club.

    Regardless, he needs to persuade people to get on board and Las Vegas has a number of potential candidates that could be enticed by the chance to link up with him in the same way LAFC has a number of Californian celebrity backers.

    Furthermore, the star power Vegas holds is also beneficial. Celebrities flock to the city year round, and that would help Beckham create the type of glitzy experience that seems synonymous with his name.

    Overall, Las Vegas is a better fit for what he needs right now, and if he was to abandon Miami then Vegas has to be his first port of call.


    It could further test the league’s patience

    There was a time when David Beckham could do no wrong in MLS. In 2007 he was the league’s marquee name, and catapulted MLS onto a global stage.

    However, things have changed. No longer a professional player, there is less of an appeal to his name, and when Garbrer spoke of deadlines approaching in December it was a subtle hint that he would not wait forever.

    “There is a deadline on the Miami deal,” he told reporters while refusing to reveal just when that is. “We continue to work with the ownership group because we want a team in Miami. We continue to be very engaged there.”

    If Beckham chooses to abandon the idea of Miami it could force the league to question the legitimacy of his plans altogether. MLS has already waited three years for a franchise fronted by Beckham, but it won’t wait forever, even for him.

    It confirms his Miami plans as a failure

    When David Beckham did make his announcement there were certainly skeptics voicing concerns. Miami was not primed for a team, nor a stadium, but the star power of Beckham helped dull those concerns.

    Three years on those same pebbles of doubt now look like roadblocks. Atlanta United will play their MLS opener next month (despite being announced two months after Beckham’s franchise) and so the pressure starts to mount on Beckham again.

    Everyone associated with the project has maintained a positive rhetoric in public. “Our partners are 100 percent committed to Miami,” spokesman Tadd Schwartz said in a statement.

    “And we will continue working with Commissioner Garber and the league as we finalise the launch of our world-class soccer club. We’re making progress, and we appreciate the strong support of our fans as our launch draws closer.”

    A sudden change of direction would confirm the plan was a failure, and Beckham is far from used to that. His time at LA Galaxy began with difficulties, but ultimately saw him ride off into the sunset with two MLS Cups to his name.

    The same won’t happen if he abandons his team in Miami, with his pride taking as much of a dent as his reputation.

    Vegas remains an untested market

    One of the benefits of Miami is the city’s history as a football market. Granted, MLS has had a team based there before (the Miami Fusion, which folded in 2001) but that was a significantly different time for both MLS and football in America.

    Tapping into the strong Hispanic market in Miami, there was talk last year that Beckham had headhunted Roberto Carlos to be coach of his team for that very reason. On the field, it would not be difficult to persuade some of South America’s best talent to relocate to Florida in the same way Kaka did with Orlando City.

    For that reason, Miami is more of a known quantity. The same cannot be said for Las Vegas. The original iteration of the NASL did have a team there – Las Vegas Quicksilvers – containing by the late Eusebio, but the team folded after just one year of competition.