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Oct 14, 2013

Dolphins' Stephen Ross linked to MLS

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is looking to partner with former Manchester United and Real Madrid star David Beckham to bring an MLS expansion team to Miami, a source told ESPNFC.com.

The link between Ross and Beckham was first reported by The Daily Mail earlier this month, but on Monday a source close to Ross indicated that RSE Ventures, the sports marketing company Ross co-founded with Matt Higgins in 2012, is looking to provide marketing services to the investment group being put together by Beckham, and possibly provide a temporary stadium solution for the proposed team.

Just last month, Ross said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit that he was seeking to acquire an MLS expansion team and place it in Miami.

It was presumed that such an effort would be in competition with Beckham, who has been negotiating with Bolivian businessman Marcelo Claure to come up with the necessary funds to acquire and run the franchise.

But the source indicated that if Beckham and his partners are successful in landing the team, Ross will work in conjunction with the group, and that Ross wouldn't provide any of the start-up money needed by Beckham's consortium.

RSE Ventures, through its subsidiary Relevent Sports, hosted last summer's International Champions Cup, a series of exhibitions featuring Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus, and the L.A. Galaxy, among others.

The source indicated that the marketing expertise required in putting on such an event is what RSE Ventures would provide to the proposed team.

Beckham reportedly has an option to acquire an MLS expansion franchise at a discounted rate, believed to be $25 million. It has also been reported that Beckham's option expires at the end of the year, although ESPNFC.com was unable to confirm that detail.

A major obstacle to Beckham's plans has been finding a suitable stadium. MLS is insisting that any team in Miami would have to be placed in a suitably sized venue with a capacity of around 20,000 fans close to the downtown area. The source indicated that the Dolphins' home, Sun Life Stadium, could be used as a temporary venue until a permanent home is found. A stadium at Florida International University, where Claure sits on the Board of Trustees, has also been floated as a temporary solution. In terms of Beckham's investment group, the source said that the soccer star's negotiations with Claure were ongoing, but that Beckham was also talking to investors from as far afield as Qatar, Singapore, and Japan. It's worth noting that the Qatari Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, owns Paris St. Germain, which was the last club Beckham played for during his playing career.

Some competition for the expansion team still remains, however.

Two weeks ago, Italian financier Alessandro Butini, in conjunction with the University of Miami School of Architecture, announced plans for a soccer specific stadium in Miami. Some important details remain to be hammered out, however, with Butini telling ESPN.com that the stadium site had yet to be determined, and that his investment group had not been finalized.

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