The rumors spiked across Twitter on Friday: David Beckham was finally ready to pull the plug on his tortured attempts to bring Major League Soccer back to Miami. Instead, one soccer writer suggested, he was turning his sights to the more pliable city of Las Vegas.
The sketchily sourced news had the ring of truth. It's been more than a thousand days since Beckham promised top-tier fùtbol in South Florida. He's now on his fourth stadium plan after watching politicians scuttle idea after idea. His fabled "search for investors" is beginning to feel like the hunt for Jimmy Hoffa's body.
Even stalwart local MLS backers such as the Southern Legion sounded like they needed a stiff whiskey:
Ridiculous how Miami has been given a golden ticket to join MLS and has sqaundered it on all sides.— Southern Legion (@Southern_Legion) December 9, 2016
But Beckham's team insists the rumor mill is wrong. They're still working on turning a plot of land in Overtown into an MLS stadium, and that forever-simmering hunt for investors is still on.
Ownership group that's talked a big game but doesn't seem to have the walk or the bucks. Politicos that have seen this as one big photo op.— Southern Legion (@Southern_Legion) December 9, 2016
“Our partners are 100 percent committed to Miami, and we will continue working with [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] and the league as we finalize the launch of our world-class soccer club," the group, known as Miami Beckham United, says in a statement sent to New Times. "We're making progress, and we appreciate the strong support of our fans as our launch draws closer."
That's not to say everything is rosy, though. Even Garber acknowledged his mounting frustration with Beckham's seemingly endless delays. Speaking to reporters last week, Garber said he'd given Beckham a deadline to get his deal done.
Garber didn't specify that deadline, but he has slotted Miami as the 24th team in the league, with Atlanta, Minnesota, and L.A. already close to adding new squads. Other wannabe MLS cities, including St. Louis, could steal that slot if Beckham can't get his ducks in a row.
From the outside, Beckham's travails could look like a case of a player in over his head trying to become a team owner. But the truth is Miami was always going to be an extraordinarily tough market to navigate for a new MLS franchise.
Beckham's first misstep was trying to land waterfront property for his new stadium just as Miami's bayfront market overheated. It's no great shock that attempts to wrench away city-controlled land were met with stiff public and political headwinds.
But his bigger problem traces back to the Marlins Park fiasco. More than any city in America, Miami is attuned to the half-truths and veiled threats that usually get taxpayer-supported stadium deals done. The Magic City has already been horribly burned by that racket — and both the city and county mayors made reputations by opposing it — which meant Beckham's deal would have to be entirely privately financed to get done.
Beckham and his team insist they've finally found a way to do so. They've already purchased six acres in Overtown but need to buy three more from the county. Then the group needs investors to foot the $150 million buildout.
But everyone who's ever reported on this bid has gotten burned at some point on a "the deal is imminent!" story pushed by Miami Beckham United. Way back in February, insiders told this New Times reporter that Qatari investors were seriously into the bid and that a deal with someone could be done by March.
Will a firm MLS deadline finally spark real progress? That's anyone's guess.