David Beckham was like Michael Jordan for MLS - his Miami team can now take us to the next level, says Don Garber

Beckham recently met with MLS owners to present plans for an expansion side that league commissioner Garber hopes will be unveiled sooner rather than later

Simon Peach
Saturday 02 September 2017 10:36 BST
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David Beckham has been tipped to be a positive owner for MLS
David Beckham has been tipped to be a positive owner for MLS

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber believes "transformational" David Beckham will help take the division up a further level when his Miami team finally launches.

A decade on from sending ripples around the footballing world by switching Real Madrid for the Los Angeles Galaxy, the former England captain is preparing to take another major step back into the North American game.

Part of Beckham's game-changing deal with the Galaxy included rights to purchase an MLS expansion franchise for 25million - a clause that saw the ex-midfielder launch his quest for a team in Miami three years ago.

The 42-year-old plumped for the city thanks to its diverse, untapped football-loving population and, after years of delays related to finding a suitable stadium site, the end is at last within sight.

Beckham and Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly recently met with MLS owners to present their plans for an expansion side that commissioner Garber hopes will be unveiled sooner rather than later.

"I'm a big believer that just because you are a professional athlete doesn't mean you don't have the capabilities to be a good sports team owner," he said at MLS HQ in New York. "It's actually the other way round.

"Coming up with the game and understanding the intricacies of it, I think a guy like David would be a fantastic owner. He's a very bright guy, very committed to our country and our league, very committed to the city of Miami. I think if we can get things closed then it will be a great success and it will be great to have him as an owner. He was a great player for us."

Garber believes Beckham is among just a "handful" of players able to drive league growth within football, comparing him to Paris St Germain forward Neymar's likely impact in Ligue 1.

Beckham had a seismic impact on MLS as a player

"Wayne Gretzky was a transformational figure for the National Hockey League," Garber said, looking closer to home. "Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were transformational players who took the NBA from what it was to what it is today in many ways.

"David was today for us, where we are now, that transformational player. He was our Michael Jordan, our Wayne Gretzky. He was the guy who came here and basically said: 'it's okay, this league is all right - it's not the Premier League, but that's okay.' It's focused, good brands, good teams and is embedded in the community."

Garber said with a smile that Beckham has "worked out well" for MLS, even if the 25million expansion clause has cost them a substantial amount. It was a really smart deal on his part - we'd never do that again!" he said, with highly-contested franchise spots now costing 150million apiece. We had 10 teams, people were scratching their heads and wondering if the MLS would survive.

"David gave up income to have rights issue, the guy had guts and power to him. He wants to have a very successful global team in one of the great cities in the world. It's very simple. He wants it to be competitive and be a global brand. The only way you can do that is to be good on and off the pitch."

Garber believes Beckham will be a great owner

Garber has been frustrated by the delays to the Miami team but "getting it right in Miami is way more important than getting it done quickly", especially having seen two south Florida sides fold in the early days of MLS.

This deal is now "getting to the finish line" and a launch could even come later this month, with the vision of Beckham and the ownership sure to become clear then.

Given he was the first designated player in MLS history, marquee players are surely on the cards in Miami and Garber says there will always be a place in the league for them.

"I hope we don't move too far away from recognising that having global icons play in our league can deliver all sorts of value and technology," Garber said. "Not just in terms of ticket sales and commercial benefit but it inspires young people here.

"They might be influenced by playing the EA Sports games, or watching the Premier League or Bundesliga and yet might not have a local MLS team. If you can bring in an icon like David in his day or David Villa is doing today, Sebastian Giovinco, Carlos Vela in LA next year, if you can have those players who are followed, not just followed but truly followed on a global basis. We have to be careful. We have to sign them at the right age."

Garber concluded: "We don't need it like we used to. We need successful teams. I think we'll get into a process where our teams will get more recognition. We are less reliant on one individual now, more about the team, the team's success and where it fits into the community."

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