Beckham still eyeing Miami for MLS club: source
LOS ANGELES - Agence France-Presse
Paris Saint-Germain's David Beckham reacts during his team's French Ligue 1 soccer match against Brest in Paris in this May 18, 2013 file photo. REUTERS PhotoDavid Beckham continues to target Miami for an expansion Major League Soccer club, but no deal has been reached.
"Miami is the first choice, but nothing is finalized yet," a source close to the deal told AFP on Tuesday.
Former England captain Beckham led the Los Angeles Galaxy to two MLS titles after stints at Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan and before retiring earlier this year after a final run at Paris Saint-Germain.
Part of his landmark MLS deal included an option to purchase an MLS club at a discounted price that ends in December and Beckham had given previous indications that Miami was his top choice.
In June, Beckham toured Miami-area stadiums, including the Sun Life Stadium of the NFL's Miami Dolphins and Florida International University Stadium.
He met Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and has also had discussions with Marcelo Claure, the Bolivian billionaire owner of Brightstar Communications. Claure tried unsuccessfully in 2009 to bring an MLS team to Miami and could partner Beckham in a new MLS venture.
The Miami Herald reported earlier this month that Beckham has been working with Claure and that talks were "progressing nicely but not a done deal yet." However, the Herald has also reported that Beckham could have a rival in a bid for a Miami MLS franchise in Italian financier Alessandro Butini.
Butini has set up a website for his Miami MLS bid, MIA4MLS.com, to spark fan interest and has partnered with the University of Miami school of architecture to create designs for a new downtown stadium for the club.
The buzz over a possible Beckham-backed club in Miami prompted Gimenez to issue a statement on Tuesday.
"We've not had any official notification that David Beckham has chosen Miami for a new MLS franchise,"
Gimenez said. "That said, I join the hundreds of thousands soccer fans throughout South Florida who are ready and eagerly waiting for an MLS team to be established in Miami." Miami had one of the original MLS teams, the Fusion, but it folded after four seasons.
Major League Soccer currently has 19 teams, and a 20th team, New York City FC, is set to launch in 2015.
That team is a joint venture of English Premier League team Manchester City and Major League Baseball's New York Yankees.