LONDON - With his playing career over, former England captain David Beckham has decided his next move: starting a Major League Soccer team in Miami.
Since leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy in December, and retiring from the game after a subsequent five-month stint at Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham has been mulling over the location for his MLS franchise.
Beckham has now made up his mind and he will pay a discounted rate of $25 million to start an MLS expansion team in Miami, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because plans for the team aren't being publicly discussed yet.
The option of becoming a team owner was included in the MLS contract Beckham signed when joining the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007.
"We know that Miami is one of the most passionate soccer markets in North America," MLS Executive Vice President Dan Courtemanche told the AP. "We have met with David Beckham regarding ownership of an expansion team, and we look forward to David one day owning an MLS club."
There are currently 19 MLS teams, and league commissioner Don Garber hopes to expand to 24 teams by the 2020 season. A 20th team is already in place to begin playing in 2015 after Premier League club Manchester City and its partner, the New York Yankees, paid an expansion fee of $100 million to launch New York City FC. Orlando is expected to be announced as the 21st franchise after receiving funding for a soccer-specific stadium last week.
The MLS still has to give Beckham the go-ahead to make Miami the location of the franchise.
Beckham is looking to raise several hundred million dollars of investment to fund the setup costs, including putting together the squad of players and building a stadium, although the franchise could initially play in an existing venue.
Beckham's business partner Simon Fuller, the "American Idol" creator who is the driving force in franchise negotiations, will be a significant shareholder, the person familiar with the situation said. Beckham is also looking to bring on board one or two further investors, having already had expressions of interest from businessmen globally, and hopes the team can be playing in three years.
In June, Beckham toured the Sun Life and Florida International University stadiums and met with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
University officials delivered a presentation to Beckham and Marcelo Claure, president and CEO of Brightstar Corp. and a member of the FIU Board of Trustees, explaining the draw of a professional team in Miami.
A spokesman for the university offered no comment on the AP report.
Before deciding on Miami as the franchise location, Beckham explored options in other cities, including Montreal, San Diego and Orlando, the person said.
Miami has had a Major League Soccer team before. The Miami Fusion held matches in Fort Lauderdale from 1998 to 2001, before shutting down because of poor attendance.
As a former Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan midfielder, Beckham hopes his star power will make a team work there.
Beckham's management team said it is not ready yet to make an announcement about Beckham's franchise ownership option.
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