With a raucous crowd and a national broadcast crew, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber sat yesterday in sunny, southern weather in his league's newest stadium and raved about the future of his sport. But more than a year after David Beckham's gala press conference promising a downtown Miami soccer facility and a new team, it wasn't South Florida hosting Garber.
Instead, the commissioner spoke in Avaya Stadium, the new home of the San Jose Earthquakes. But asked at halftime about the prospects of MLS in Miami, where stadium negotiations have seemingly gone silent, Garber insisted futbol is on track in South Florida and that new developments from Beckham's team could come in "a couple weeks" when he visits Miami.
Garber, speaking with Alexi Lalas, said he still believes Miami could become the league's 24th franchise, with Minnesota recently announced at the next club to follow a pending team from Atlanta and another franchise in L.A.
Praising a "different soccer environment" across America, Garber said he's confident civil support will get behind a stadium.
"These folks are going to sell out every game," Garber says, pointing out to the San Jose crowd, "and when you have the right stadium plan in the right environment, we have success."
"Well be there in the next couple weeks," Garber says. "Hope to get something done."
Lalas also quizzed the commissioner about a longform story that landed last week in Howler Magazine about Marcelo Claure, the Bolivian billionaire backing the Miami franchise. In the piece (a great read from New Times alum Robert Andrew Powell), Claure suggests that MLS's ownership system is "communist," because every team is centrally owned and big-money owners can't come in to dominate the league as in England or Spain.
Garber took umbrage at that description, telling Lalas that "the last thing they are is communist."
Of course, the commissioner's optimism doesn't answer the practical question of where MLS could actually play in Miami. Beckham's group has already lost fights over its two preferred sites on the downtown waterfront, and it's not clear whether the more likely alternatives — next to Marlins Park, perhaps, or even farther west at FIU — would satisfy investors who want prime downtown real estate.