Another year, another expansion franchise. Some, like Atlanta United and Los Angeles FC, hit the ground running and thrive, having made the step up to the MLS at the right time. Others, such as 2019 MLS debutants Cincinnati will crash and burn, and while relegation is not yet a part of the Major League’s setup, a poor start to life often leads to a lot of soul searching and a loss of marketability.
The next team to make its mark on the MLS will be Inter Miami, bearing swatches of black, silver and pink – highly appropriate colours for a franchise already harbouring heady ambitions. Manager-to-be David Beckham is already hoping to utilise his black magic in the transfer market, in order to attract the signings that will put silverware in the cabinet, and ensure that Inter Miami remains in the pink of health throughout its Major League existence.
The team have agreed to play their football in Fort Lauderdale, but there are plans to build a stadium in Freedom Park, Miami. If designed with infrastructure, convenience and aesthetic value in mind, the new stadium will establish them as a force.
For now, however, the focus will be on player recruitment, and Beckham’s activity in the transfer market will be the first sign of just how deadly his influence could be in the MLS.
The early signs are certainly promising, with PSG’s Edinson Cavani set to become the England legend’s first marquee signing. Naturally, many people will point to Beckham’s prior experiences as an MLS player as a key factor, as he aims to get the best out of the Uruguayan.
Beckham – The Original Pioneer
There is no doubt that Beckham knows what it takes to flourish in a new league, and one that many European masters underestimate at their peril.
It all began in January 2007 with Beckham’s transfer from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy amounting to an eye-watering potential value of $250m. The actual deal was worth $32.5m, but such a huge figure immediately established LA Galaxy as one of the most ambitious football clubs in the world. So too did it believe the idea that only those in the mega-rich UEFA Champions League were worth following.
In addition to a surge in season ticket sales, Beckham’s arrival also prompted greater interest in corporate hospitality, showing exactly how a big name can see a surge in fortunes, even before the first ball of the season has been kicked. Overseas viewing figures for LA Galaxy games also increased drastically that year.
Initially, the hype surrounding Beckham did not translate into results as drastically as anyone expected. He struggled with injury during the 2007 MLS year, and while his unrivalled vision – and five goals in 25 appearances – gave Galaxy a fighting chance of playoff contention in 2008, it was ultimately not to be.
Loan moves to AC Milan, in 2009 and 2010, rejuvenated him. In 2009, LA Galaxy lost on penalties in the MLS Cup playoff final, but were not deterred. Galaxy retained the Western Conference title in 2010, before successive glories in 2011 and 2012 ensured that Beckham could end his MLS playing days in peace.
Inspiration for Cavani Amidst Diverse League
If Beckham’s time at LA Galaxy showed the world anything, it is that an aged exile from Europe need not experience immediate success to leave a great MLS legacy. Beckham’s title successes came during his twilight years, proving that the MLS is a league that allows natural skill to flourish for a long time.
While the pace is clearly slower than the frantic affair that is the Premier League, the instinct required for long passes, expert free kicks and long shots never leaves those who arrive from Europe seeking a fresh challenge.
Beckham’s move has since opened the floodgates for others to arrive. Over the past year alone, Wayne Rooney’s impact on D.C. United has been a telling one. Those that check out these exciting MLS markets can see that D.C. United often enjoy status as favourites on match day, and with the Croxteth-born assassin averaging a goal roughly every other game during his time in the capital, this is hardly surprising.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, however, appears to have stolen the limelight yet again, and despite his advanced years, he remains an exceptional athlete. Recent weeks have seen him become unplayable on home turf, and he will go into September having netted ten of the 11 goals scored by LA Galaxy across their last five home league matches not to end in defeat.
Many others, such as Thierry Henry and Sebastian Giovinco have also thrived after making the move, showing just as much passion as their homegrown MLS teammates, and defying sceptics who believe that they are just in it for the money.
Will Cavani see this as a Step-Down in his Career?
Edison Cavani knows nothing but the highest level of club and international football, and as such, only he himself knows how he will perceive this move.
Inwardly, there may be a tinge of regret, with the move ending all possibility of Cavani winning the Champions League as PSG player, on top of countless Ligue 1 trophies.
However, the brutal truth is that Cavani’s time at the top of European football is running short, and the charm of winning nothing but Ligue 1 titles in France at a canter can only stay at its underwhelming plateau.
While Cavani’s inner-ego might cause him to miss the bright lights of Champions League nights, he is still a born winner who will crave any type of new challenge.
That challenge will be to prove himself against young speedsters, and provide a benchmark for MLS rookies to aim for. A unique long-term challenge also exists, in that his effectiveness could dictate how many more stars follow in his wake to Inter Miami, as the results that his goals yield gain international attention.
Given how the MLS has become a natural domain for stars in the twilight phase of their careers, the next three years could easily see mega stars such as Messi, Suarez and Benzema travel across the Atlantic.
As such figures are highly familiar with Cavani as a Champions League opponent, they will be naturally drawn to any squad built around Cavani. In turn, that increases Cavani’s chances of becoming the man who made Inter Miami the great success story of the 2020s.