Football: Beckham talking to MLS about owning a new team

MIAMI (REUTERS) - David Beckham could return to the United States (US) as owner of a new club and his advisors have already held talks with Major League Soccer (MLS).

Beckham announced his retirement from professional soccer on Thursday but has been tight-lipped about his future plans after ending the season with French club Paris St Germain.

The former England captain's contract with MLS, signed when he joined the L.A. Galaxy in 2007, included an option to purchase an 'expansion franchise'.

Beckham's advisors, which include his management team, Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment, have discussed with the league some of the possible locations for an eventual team.

"There have been discussions with his advisors, his management, preliminary discussions," MLS executive vice-president of communications, Dan Courtemanche told Reuters on Friday.

MLS currently has 19 teams and hopes to add a 20th club in New York City, with Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi reported to be the likely buyer of that franchise.

Beckham's option, which would allow him to create a new franchise for a fee understood to be US$25 million (S$31.3 million), well below the recent entry fees to the league for other expansion clubs, explicitly rules out New York City as a location for an eventual new team.

While Beckham has always indicated he would use the option, a spokesman for Beckham told Reuters that it was "early days" regarding any post-retirement plans for the player.

Beckham has, however, already taken on some commitments including signing up for 'ambassadorial' roles promoting football in China and encouraging people to play sports in a partnership with British pay TV company BSkyB.

When the contractual opportunity to own an MLS team was first disclosed, in 2009, Beckham said: "It will happen eventually."

Last year he stated: "I have the option of owning a franchise, and that excites me."

But where that team could be based is a tricky question that is occupying the minds of the Londoner's advisors.

The South East of the US is currently without an MLS team and Miami has been considered as one of the possible locations by Beckham's team.

"It is one of many markets that has been mentioned, so have other markets," said Courtemanche.

While the South Beach lifestyle might appeal to Beckham, who made his family home in Beverley Hills during his six years in Los Angeles, the city has been considered a tough market to crack for MLS.

The Miami Fusion, who played in neighbouring Fort Lauderdale, joined MLS in 1998 but were closed down by the then struggling league after four seasons along with fellow Florida team the Tampa Bay Mutiny.

A major stumbling block to a South Florida team is that they would likely have to finance a purpose-built soccer stadium given the two major venues in the city are an NFL and baseball venue and MLS is not keen on sharing sites designed for other sports.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has frequently mentioned a desire to return to the South East though and there have been talks with ambitious lower division club Orlando City and with the owners of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.

Other cities that are considered potential expansion sites for MLS include Minneapolis, Tampa and San Antonio.

While MLS is currently focused on completing the deal for the New York City franchise and stadium plans, with an announcement possible later this month, the talks with Beckham's camp are expected to continue.

"At some point in time he will exercise that option and we can go through the process of making sure it is the perfect fit for David and Major League Soccer but we are not there yet," said Courtemanche.

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