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Oct 15, 2008

Barcelona to bid for Miami MLS franchise

Spanish football giants Barcelona are to launch a bid to become co-owners of a US Major League Soccer franchise in partnership with Bolivian entrepreneur, Marcelo Claure.

The giant Catalan club will announce details of their plan to form a new MLS side in Miami on Wednesday, when the deadline expires for applications for two new expansion teams to be added for the 2011 season.

''The idea is to set up an investment company involving FC Barcelona and a Bolivian entrepreneur living in Miami, Marcelo Claure, who is the chief of an investment group featuring Americans and citizens of different South American countries,'' the club revealed in a statement.

''Claure is already the owner of FC Bolivar, with whom FC Barcelona already collaborate. The company's sole aim right now is present an application for a franchise and promote it to the MLS''.

"The company's sole aim right now is present an application for a franchise and promote it to MLS," the Barca statement continued. "If the candidature is successful, the company will become a reality, otherwise it will fold."

At present the MLS is contested by 14 teams but expansion plans will see that figure grow to 16 with new franchises in Seattle and Philadelphia joining the league in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

The MLS want new franchises to play at 'soccer-specific' venues - stadia specifically built for the game - and Barcelona have said they have already held talks with Florida International University to that end.

''The most likely solution will be Florida International University, with whom negotiations are already at a late stage as the potential club seeks to use the facility for at least the first two years of its existence,'' the club said.

If successful in its bid Barcelona are expected to name to the Miami franchise after the Catalan club itself, and will view the MLS as an opportunity to expand the Barcelona brand into the United States.

Miami, and the state of Florida, have been without MLS football since 2001 when the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny franchises lost their places when the league was reduced in size.

The Fusion were founded in 1998 but failed to establish itself, with many citing the fact that the club's stadium was based in the neighbouring city of Fort Lauderdale, a long journey for the urban Latin community the league had hoped to attract.

Cities including Atlanta, Portland, St. Louis, Vancouver and Ottawa have also expressed an interest in gaining an MLS franchise on 2011.

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