MLS board of governors approves David Beckham's expansion bid group
The MLS board of governors voted to approve the new composition of the ownership group aiming to bring an MLS expansion franchise to Miami, the league announced on Thursday.
The MLS Board stopped short of granting the group led by David Beckham -- Miami Beckham United -- full approval to acquire an MLS franchise, though that is expected to take place in the coming months.
"Jorge and Jose Mas, Miami-based leaders of telecommunications giant MasTec and philanthropists with deep, generational ties to the South Florida community, and Japanese entrepreneur and SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, today were approved by Major League Soccer's Board of Governors as additional owners of Miami's prospective MLS expansion club," MLS said in a statement. "A further announcement on the team is expected to be made prior to the start of the 2018 MLS regular season."
Beckham's investment group later issued the following statement: "What began as a vision shared by Marcelo Claure, David Beckham and Simon Fuller is now on its way to becoming reality with the addition of Jorge and Jose Mas and Masayoshi Son ["Masa"] to our ownership group.
"The combination of the Mas brothers, Masa, Marcelo, David and Simon brings local expertise, global perspective, an unquestionable track record of business success and one of the foremost icons in global soccer. Our group will build a world-class franchise that reflects the people, values and history of the Miami community. This will be a club that Miami fans are proud to call their own."
Beckham's quest to acquire an expansion franchise has been beset by delays since it was first announced in February of 2014. Most of those centered on finding a suitable stadium site, but lately Beckham's investor group has taken center stage. Todd Boehly, who at one stage was poised to be the majority owner, was removed from the investor group, and replaced by the Mas brothers and Son.
The ownership structure has also evolved into a more even spread of the financial commitment, which appealed to the MLS Board, as did a group with more local representation.
The next challenge for the ownership group is to make further progress on nailing down the stadium plan, which appeared to be nearing completion when MBU agreed to purchase three acres from Miami-Dade County back in June. Combined with an adjoining six-acre parcel, MBU has secured the site it needed to build a stadium in Miami's Overtown neighborhood.
But local landowner Bruce Matheson filed a lawsuit alleging that the county violated the law by not opening up the sale to competitive bidding. A judge sided with the county back in October, but Matheson has appealed the ruling, resulting in a further delay. The City of Miami must also approve zoning changes for the site.
The ongoing litigation with Matheson is not expected to be a deal-breaker.
"The litigation slowed things down, but I don't believe the litigation will prevent us from being in Miami," league commissioner Don Garber told ESPN FC last week.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.