Miami MLS bid change could affect Detroit timeline

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Dan Gilbert.

Detroit – David Beckham is still bending it.

But this time, instead of curving the ball almost magically into the goal, the retired soccer superstar’s bid to own the Major League Soccer franchise in Miami is causing the league to consider diverting its 2020 expansion plans.

And that could affect the Detroit bid.

After obtaining deep-pocket, prominent local partners in ownership this week, at the request of MLS, Beckham’s bid is now for the 2020 season, a year later than his most recent proposal.

The Miami Herald first reported the new timing, after a meeting Thursday of the Board of Governors of MLS in New York.

The board considered the four finalists already in place for the 2020, Detroit, Cincinnati, Nashville and Sacramento.

But the board also approved of Beckham’s new partners Jorge and Jose Mas, prominent business executives in Miami, who were edged out this year by a group including Derek Jeter for ownership of the Marlins, in Major League Baseball.

The Beckham bid includes a nine-acre stadium site, three of which are owned by Dade County.

A lawsuit by a local landowner challenging the sale, swept aside by a judge, is now under appeal. But Beckham and his partners must also obtain zoning changes from the City of Miami.

With the Miami bid now for 2020, MLS will most likely look for a new second team to join the league in 2019, after Los Angeles FC joins in 2018.

Without it, the league would play with an odd number of teams for two seasons.

Rather expanding by three teams the next season, MLS is likely to review whether one of the 2020 finalists can start a year early.

Detroit is the only finalist with a stadium in place, but Ford Field is not an optimal MLS venue.

The league has stressed the need for independent stadiums designed for soccer, and currently has no indoor venues.

While Commissioner Don Garber has complimented the Detroit bid for including a creative plan for staging soccer in an NFL stadium and for its downtown location, MLS has also restated its clear preference for so-called soccer-specific stadiums.

The original plan for Detroit, proposed by Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, and Tom Gores, owner of the Pistons and chairman and founder of Platinum Equity, called for building a new soccer stadium.

But Ford Field means the Detroit bid would likely be ready to play in 2019, if awarded a franchise.

The Sacramento stadium is targeted for completion in February 2020, a month before the start of the season. But the Sacramento group began site preparations and early construction work in July, months ahead of schedule.

The stadium plans in Nashville and Cincinnati are largely in place, but no work has begun.

MLS announced Thursday that the Board of Governors meeting was productive, but officials would not say whether a vote on the 2020 expansion occurred.

“Today, Major League Soccer’s Board of Governors had a productive discussion about the bids from ownership groups representing Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento to become the next MLS expansion clubs,” MLS said, in a written statement.

“League officials and the MLS Expansion Committee will continue to work with the four finalists and plan to have more details shortly.”

Because of Beckham’s change, the board may not have been prepared to vote on 2020.

MLS officials did not immediately respond to requests for more information Friday morning.