MIAMI (AFP) - NBA superstar LeBron James confirmed on Monday that he is in talks with England football icon David Beckham about investing in a possible Major League Soccer expansion club for Miami.
James, who has led the Miami Heat to the past two NBA titles, told the Miami Herald that he has spoken with Beckham about the project. James owns a small share of English Premier League side Liverpool.
"There is some interest on both sides," James said. "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. There is interest on both sides, but it's preliminary talks but there is some open dialogue."
Beckham, who recently retired as a player, has been exploring the possibility of owning an MLS club. The chance to grab a team for a discounted rate was reportedly part of the contract that lured the former Manchester United star midfielder to the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 from Real Madrid.
But time to make a deal for a team is said to be running out, possibly by the end of the year.
The MLS had a Miami team, the Fusion, from 1998 through 2001 before it folded and James said the level of support from the Miami market is still being explored.
"We don't know (the potential)," James said. "The research is still being made out but I think it could be huge. You never know. I think this is a great town for soccer. There are a lot of soccer players here. There is a great youth (organization) of soccer here. And people love the city as well, so that definitely will help." Beckham has become a familiar face at Heat games and James has enjoyed a growing interest in football, even hyping his connections to the sport via video games in an advertisement, since his role in Fenway Sports Group gave him a piece of Liverpool.
"I have grown a great interest in watching the game and learning it and it is a pretty intense sport," James said. "And my kids love it as well. But I have grown to the point where I know exactly what's going on when I'm watching the game." James has spent time touring Liverpool facilities and meeting players.
Mr Stephen Ross, owner of the NFL Miami Dolphins, has reportedly shown interest in partnering with Beckham as well.
A crowd of 71,124 - the largest ever for a football match in Florida - attended a Brazil 5-0 friendly win over Honduras last Saturday.
But James says Miami actually obtaining an MLS club is far from a done deal despite the superstar leverage behind the project.
"We don't know," James said. "It's like buying a house. You don't know until you sign the papers."