David Beckham's group seeking a stadium deal to finalize a Miami football team is optimistic after quiet progress, the English star's top negotiator said Sunday in a Miami Herald story.
The newspaper reported that the Miami Beckham United group trying to bring a Major League Soccer squad to South Florida remains confident despite a year of denials by area officials in bids to locate a tract of land for a new stadium.
"We have made very meaningful strides in the last couple of months," John Alschuler, Beckham's real estate adviser and lead negotiator, told the Miami Herald in an e-mail.
"While nothing in this complex equation can be taken for granted, I am optimistic that there will be several positive announcements in the first quarter of the next year."
The retired English football star took advantage of a clause in the MLS contract he signed when joining the Los Angeles Galaxy to purchase an MLS team at a bargain rate and identified Miami as the market where he wants the team to play, but has been thwarted in getting permission to build on his desired downtown stadium sites.
The group has been quiet since a June rejection of a waterfront bid even as local leaders try to lure interest from Beckham in their locations.
MLS officials and Beckham have been unified in saying the team is contingent upon a new stadium deal, Miami's hopes having yet to be finalized even as New York and Orlando prepare to welcome new MLS clubs next year, while Atlanta and a new Los Angeles club to replace defunct Chivas USA are set for 2017 starts.
Other cities have made expansion pitches to MLS and some in Miami fear they will miss out if they cannot reach a deal soon.
Juan Zapata, a Dade County commissioner, told the Herald he wants Beckham's group to consider playing at Florida International University's stadium while a deal is completed, saying that an active team will be harder to refuse even though MLS wants the stadium before awarding a team.
"I think it's obvious that MLS isn't going to get what they want," Zapata told the Herald.
"Until we figure out a stadium plan, I think we've got to get a team on the field."
MLS has not publically embraced a stadium site near the Miami Marlins' new Major League Baseball stadium, although the Herald reported that politicians privately call it the best hope Beckham's group has for discounted land upon which it could build a stadium.
"That's the only place we have that they might be able to use," Miami city manager Daniel Alfonso told the newspaper, adding that they have not heard from Beckham's group since a bayside site was rejected by the city six months ago.