NEW YORK: Major League Soccer has outlined plans to expand the number of teams in the competition to 28, while officials have welcomed an announcement from David Beckham’s business group regarding the securing of a stadium site in Miami for its proposed expansion franchise.
The league has already confirmed plans to expand to 24 teams by 2024, with new franchises in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minnesota to join the MLS over the next three years. Beckham’s Miami franchise will complete this quota should it secure the necessary approval.
However, the MLS board of governors has now given its backing for the league to pursue expansion to 28 clubs, with a process and timeline to be unveiled at a later date. The league said that it has already opened talks with multiple markets and potential owners regarding potential expansion.
“There is no shortage of demand for MLS expansion teams, and we believe the opportunity exists to grow beyond our current plans,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber.
“During the next few months, we will evaluate the possibility of growing the league to 28 teams and establish a process and timeline should we decide on further expansion.”
The Miami Beckham United group needs to secure a stadium deal before it can win final approval for an MLS franchise, having confirmed its intention to launch an expansion team by 2017 in February 2014.
Miami Beckham United has endured numerous difficulties in its stadium efforts, but on Friday announced that it has identified a site for a privately financed stadium in Overtown, northwest of downtown Miami in an area known as the Miami River District.
The site is the fourth location pursued by the group after failed attempts at three other packages of land over two years.
Confirming the new site, Miami Beckham United said in a statement: “We intend to create an assemblage of private and County-controlled land totalling approximately nine acres in Miami’s urban core, within walking distance of multiple public transit options and the up-and-coming Miami River District.
“The private properties, which comprise the majority of the land, are under contract and we intend to purchase the County land at fair market value pending approval of our site by the MLS board of governors.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez also confirmed the deal, stating that Beckham’s prospective MLS ownership group “would pay fair market value for the property”.
He added: “The signing of this non-binding Letter of Intent may be the most significant step in our collective efforts to make Major League Soccer a reality in Miami-Dade County. It is also further confirmation that Miami Beckham United wants its franchise to be in our community.”
Garber gave his support for the deal, stating that the new stadium could help revitalise the local area. He added: “We are very supportive of Miami Beckham United’s plans to build a soccer stadium in the City of Miami’s Overtown neighbourhood.
“Their vision for a world-class venue within the urban core that is accessible by mass transportation is impressive, and we believe it will be an important part of the continued revitalisation of the area. We look forward to working with David and his partners to finalise plans to bring Major League Soccer to Miami.”
The announcements came as the Portland Timbers secured their first MLS title on Sunday, defeating Columbus Crew 2-1 in the MLS Cup final.
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