David Beckham announced his retirement as a player two weeks ago, since that time the internet has been buzzing over whether or not he would exercise his option to purchase an expansion Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.
If you are not familiar with the deal, Beckham's contract with MLS included an option allowing him to purchase a new franchise at a reduced fee of $25M excluding the Los Angeles and New York markets once he retired from playing. Even though his time with the LA Galaxy ended in November he still retains the right to exercise this option for a future franchise in the league.
Most of the talk has centered around Beckham bringing a team to Miami, perhaps partnering with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and playing at a newly renovated Sun Life Stadium. The concept is simple, pair the most recognized player in the world with a new or heavily renovated stadium, add a splash of cash and like magic, the league finds success in Florida. That's logic my 4-year old daughter could even follow, but it sure would be nice to find another example with which we can draw comparisons.
The most recognized player in the world, a new stadium, and cash; those are the ingredients went into the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA. Michael Jordan, arguably the face of professional basketball around the world, purchased the Bobcats in 2010 with the idea of revitalizing the expansion franchise. The team plays at $260M Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte which opened in 2005. The Bobcat's overall payroll has ranked around the middle of the league over the last few seasons which doesn't necessarily translate directly into success (i.e. LA Lakers). Attendance has been in the bottom quarter of league standings with home games drawing under 15,000 last season. On the court, the Bobcats have had the fewest wins in two seasons of any team in the history of the league, 29 out of 120 games played. Fame, fortune, facility all appear to be locks for success on paper, but in professional sports it is the supporters who determine the financial success of a team.
Many people in New York and beyond have argued that the latest MLS franchise, New York City FC, feels "forced", that it's a business first and a soccer club second. Wouldn't a Beckham-led expansion franchise in Miami also have that same feeling of being forced? While the Fort Lauderdale Strikers have a presence in South Florida there has been no mention of their involvement in any effort to join Beckham for his expansion effort. Instead it would be a business first, club second model similar to NYCFC where the league would award the franchise then hope the club would work out the rest.
MLS has seen "expansion through promotion" of lower league teams as a blueprint for tremendous success in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal in recent years. Wouldn't Beckham becoming part of the Orlando City expansion effort make the most sense of any of his possible options?
Beckham will make money on the franchise option regardless of location. With the average franchise valuation coming in around $70M-80M, his $25M investment will pay-off immediately even if he does nothing more than write the check. In the case of Orlando City he could purchase the expansion rights at $25M, sell minority stakes to existing owners Rawlins and da Silva, and operate as an ambassador for the club as he sat back and watched his investment grow with the team and league's success. He could live anywhere he (or Posh) wanted knowing that his investment was in good hands with a formula that has proven success in the league, expansion through promotion.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Associated Press via The Telegraph