Miami Heat superstar LeBron James confirmed Monday he’s in discussions with soccer icon David Beckham to potentially bring an MLS franchise back to South Florida.
James already has an ownership stake with Liverpool of the English Premier League, and he has followed the sport closely during his time off from the NBA season.
Beckham, who recently retired as one of the sport’s most recognizable players, has been exploring the idea of running his own MLS franchise for the past few months. “There’s some interest in both sides,” James said Monday of his talks with Beckham, who has attended several Miami Heat games in recent seasons. “David has become a good friend of mine over the last few years, and I think it would be great for this city to have a football club for sure.” MLS had a franchise in South Florida from 1998 to 2001, but the Fusion folded after playing in Fort Lauderdale. James insisted the discussions are preliminary and haven’t advanced past “some open dialogues.”
“The research is still being made out, but I think it can be huge,” said James, a four-time league MVP and two-time champion. “But you never know. I think this is a great town for soccer. There are a lot of soccer players here. There is a lot of great youth soccer here.” James said his interest in the sport has grown in the two years since he secured a business partnership with Fenway Sports Group to purchase Liverpool. James spent time in England touring the team’s facilities and meeting with players after he won his first NBA championship with the Heat in 2012.
If James and Beckham reach agreement on the MLS team, it will be the latest of several business ventures James is attached to in South Florida. He already owns a sports apparel store in a suburban Miami mall, and his wife, Savannah, is set to open a juice bar near the couple’s home in Coconut Grove. The business moves, coupled with James’ success on the court the past two seasons, have many fans in Miami hoping the ventures are signs he will remain with the Heat in the long term. James could opt out of the final two years of his Heat contract after this season to pursue free agency.
Both James and his wife have said their business ventures are independent from James’ basketball-related decisions. The potential to get more involved with soccer in Miami also was popular with his two young sons.
“I have grown a great interest in watching the game and learning the guys,” James said of his involvement with soccer. “It’s a pretty intense sport, and my kids love it as well. But I’ve grown to the point where I know exactly what’s going on when I’m watching the game.” Last month, a source told ESPN FC that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross expressed his interest in looking to partner with Beckham to bring an MLS expansion team to Miami.
The source indicated that if Beckham and his partners are successful in landing a team, Ross will work in conjunction with the group, and that Ross wouldn’t provide any of the start-up money needed by Beckham’s consortium. Beckham reportedly has an option to acquire an MLS expansion franchise at a discounted rate, believed to be $25 million. It also has been reported that Beckham’s option expires at the end of the year, although ESPN FC could not confirm that detail.