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Miami Beckham expansion bid 'at the finish line' - MLS commissioner Garber

Max and Herc ask MLS Commissioner Don Garber the tough questions on the league's growth, Miami and more.

CHICAGO -- MLS commissioner Don Garber said that the league may decide on Wednesday whether to hold a vote to grant David Beckham's group and the city of Miami an expansion franchise.

Speaking exclusively to ESPN FC at the unveiling of an all-weather "mini-pitch" on Chicago's south side, Garber said about Miami: "We're at the finish line. We're not over the finish line yet. We've been working hard for a really long time. We feel like we've got everything where we need it to be."

The MLS Board of Governors is set to meet on Wednesday. The expectation out of Beckham's camp is that a vote will take place. Garber sounded optimistic as well, but stopped short of stating that a vote is guaranteed to happen then.

"We're going to talk to our board about it," said Garber. "We're in a position to ask for a vote [on Miami], but at this point we're not sure whether we're actually going to take it at that point. We'll know a lot more on Wednesday."

There had been some rumblings that some MLS owners were chafing against Beckham's discounted expansion fee of $25 million. But Garber indicated that he didn't think that would be an impediment to Beckham getting a franchise, especially given that his investment group now includes Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, Beckham business partner Simon Fuller, Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke and Eldridge Industries CEO Todd Boehly.

"Life's a long time. We made a commitment to David when he came into the league, and it's taken a really long time to get that right," Garber said. "I know I speak on behalf of all the owners, when we give our word to somebody, we're going to follow up on it.

"There is grumbling in everything when it comes to pro sports. This is not one that I'm particularly concerned about. But we did need to go through a proper process.

"And he had not just an option, but he had to deliver on all aspects of that option, which were a proper stadium, the right financial partners and other things that we need to be comfortable with."

Don Garber
MLS commissioner Don Garber says Miami is at the finish line of its expansion chase.

It was also two months ago that Beckham's group, Miami Beckham United, purchased a three-acre plot from Miami-Dade County for $9 million. When combined with a previous six-acre purchase from a private owner, MBU has the land it needs to build its stadium. All that needs to be done is for the City of Miami to approve zoning changes for the stadium site.

But just 10 days ago, wealthy local landowner Bruce Matheson filed a lawsuit seeking to block the county's sale of the land. Garber said he's not concerned.

"I don't see the lawsuit as an impediment to the process," he said. "More importantly, as you've heard from the mayor [of Miami, Tomas Regalado] there will be a process where the public can weigh in, and we support that because we want to be good community partners."

Miami is separate from the ongoing process of 12 cities competing for an eventual four MLS expansion slots, but Garber said he was also encouraged by the current state of the league's expansion efforts even though both St. Louis and San Diego took hits in recent months.

A St. Louis stadium funding measure was rejected by voters, while San Diego's attempt to hold a vote on a stadium project looks set to be delayed until next year.

But Detroit's bid got a boost on Monday when Wayne County executive Warren Evans indicated he prefers a plan by MLS bidders Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores to build a stadium and criminal justice complex. Last week, Sacramento began construction on its stadium project, and Garber recently concluded a successful visit to Nashville.

"I read something the other day about whether or not we're disappointed by where we are. We couldn't be more excited about where we are," he said. "The news out of Detroit was very positive, clearly the groundbreaking in Sacramento was very, very positive, my trip to Nashville was off the charts.

"And there remain lots of different, great markets for us to go to. At some point, somebody is going to be really disappointed, and we're going to have to figure out how to manage that."

Garber added: "We never thought we'd have 12 expansion prospects. When they came out, every single one of them was energized, and looking to be one of the next four. We will end up with way more teams when we get to the decision point than we're going to have slots for. There's going to be lots of maneuvering, and teams moving up and moving back."

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

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