It has been over a decade since the Miami Fusion disbanded and South Florida was left without a Major League Soccer franchise, but that could change soon thanks to international soccer legend David Beckham.
Beckham's 2007 contract with the LA Galaxy included a provision that would allow him to buy a new MLS franchise for $25 million, an unprecedented provision that could help bring the MLS back to Florida.
The 38-year-old Beckham announced his retirement in May, and visited a number of stadiums in South Florida last month with Bolivian billionaire and soccer club owner Marcelo Claure. The two toured Sun Life Stadium, and FIU's football stadium, and also met with numerous local politicians (including Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez and county commissioner Jose Diaz).
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Beckham told UK paper The Sun that an official announcement regarding his plans is looming. "It will be in a few months maybe but it's important to get it right," he said.
"This is a big decision where I'll have my franchise and how I'm going to do it. It's something I'm excited about."
Florida used to have two MLS franchises, the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny. The Fusion played from 1998 through 2001 at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, winning the Eastern Conference regular season title in 2001 as well as the Supporters' Sheild, given to the team with the highest point total.
But the Fusion and Mutiny both disbanded after the 2001 season, as the league contracted from 12 to 10 clubs due to poor attendence and insufficient corporate sponsorships. But MLS has grown in popularity in the intervening decade, helped by strong World Cup showings from the US Men's National Team and the continued growth of youth soccer in America.
MLS does not have any franchises in the southeast - the closest teams to Florida are the Houston Dynamo and DC United. In June, MLS executive vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche hinted at plans to expand into the southeast.
"We're going to start to formulate our plan for the future and potential growth for beyond 20 teams," Courtemanche told the Sun Sentinel in June. "We certainly believe that an MLS team could be very successful in both South Florida and Central Florida."