MIAMI (AP) – David Beckham has exercised his option to purchase a Major League Soccer expansion team in Miami, and the deal with the former England captain will be finalized when he can secure a financing plan and location for a new stadium.
Beckham attended a news conference with MLS commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday to discuss their progress.
''This is an exciting time, and something we're really looking forward to bringing to Miami,'' Beckham told a crowd of more than 300 people on a downtown museum plaza. The event was frequently interrupted by cheers for Beckham.
The retired football icon has scouted possible stadium sites and is seeking investors to assist with startup costs such as construction and player acquisitions. Among those who might become involved is Miami Heat star LeBron James, who has had recent conversations with Beckham about bringing a team to Miami.
''LeBron has become a friend over the last few years,'' Beckham said. ''We spoke about this on the business side and also as friends. He's very interested in this.''
Beckham, looking the part of a businessman in a suit and tie, said city officials have promised the team's stadium will be downtown, which is his preference.
''We don't want public funding,'' Beckham said to applause. ''We will fund the stadium ourselves. We have worked very hard to get to this stage where we can fund the stadium ourselves. We want to create a football club that is the people's football club.''
Gimenez - who at one point referred to Beckham as ''Beckman'' - said there's political support for a plan.
''We started our negotiations last week,'' Gimenez said. ''We have to get rolling. There's a time crunch. We are willing partners. We are very grateful that Mr. Beckham and MLS have chosen Miami as the site for their next franchise. We're going to do all in our power to make sure we get the stadium built in the right place as quickly as possible.''
New teams have been announced for 2015 in New York City and Orlando, Florida, increasing the league's total to 21. Beckham declined to offer a timetable regarding when Miami might play its first game, but a likely target is 2017.
He has the right to an expansion team at a discount fee of $25 million. MLS's Miami Fusion played in Fort Lauderdale from 1998-01 before folding because of poor attendance, but this time, Beckham's star power could make a difference.
''Miami is a vibrant city with a lot of passion,'' he said. ''I know this city is ready for football - soccer - this time around. I know this is going to be successful.''
Shareholders in the team will include Beckham's business partner Simon Fuller, the ''American Idol'' creator who is the driving force in franchise negotiations, and Marcelo Claure, president and CEO of Brightstar Corp. Beckham said he'll finalize his group of investors over the next couple of months.