Reports out of Spain yesterday claimed that Major League Soccer has sent the final draft of an offer to Barcelona for an expansion team in Miami.
Marcelo Claure, the supposed Bolivian cell phone zillionaire who is apparently partnered with Barca in the bid, told the Miami Herald this morning that those reports were "premature", a choice of phrase that tells us nothing at all, which was undoubtedly his intent.
Be that as it may, most observers now believe that a Miami/barcelona MLS team is now inevitable. Now in point of fact if there's one thing I've learned from BigSoccer over the years is that the Conventional Wisdom is almost invariably wrong.
(Of course, sooner or later even a blind pig finds an acorn, although why he would want to has never been adequately explained. But I digress)
Still, it seems that MLS is determined to expand and the fact that they have yet to come up with a single candidate who actually meets their stated criteria no longer seems to be an obstacle. They are now apparently interested in one thing, and one thing only: the expansion fee.
That said, I have been pimping the idea of a team for Miami for years and years now, and thus if a) all the bids suck and b) the league insists on accepting a couple of them anyway, then I guess Miami would be my clear first choice.
The bottom line though is that I think this is the wrong ownership group and they're trying to buy in for the wrong reasons.
First of all, what about this Claure guy? If he's so bloody rich, why doesn't he just throw down for a team? I'd be way, way good with that. And if, as claimed, the contracts went to Spain for approval, then what, exactly, is Claure's role?
In the end, I think Barcelona wants this team for the wrong reasons. Sitting there in a wood-lined Spanish boardroom I think they have visions of Barcelona brand extension taking the US by storm, something akin to the David Beckham phenomenon. And the fact is that there's just no question that their shirt and gewgaw sales are going to be pretty much on a par with the Rapids or the Crew or Dallas FC.
And that's not at all what they have in mind.
Barca's brand means nothing in the overall scheme of American sports merchandising, and an MLS team in Miami - or anywhere else - isn't going to change that one little bit.
And when that realization sets in, when BarcaMiami isn't sending US dollars to the home office via weekly container ship, like Pizarro sending home Galleons packed with stolen Mayan gold, they're going to sour on the whole thing.
And of course there's the whole stadium deal. MLS is supposed to be moving away from artificial turf and borrowed stadiums, and places like Miami and Vancouver are a step backwards for this league, not forwards. In fact, if the league akes those two candidates, then three out of the four newest teams will play on plastic and in stadiums that were built for another purpose.
This wasn't where we were told the league was moving.
(And where do I go to request a moratorium on the term "World Class"? Every single one of these outfits proudly claim that whatever stadium they're touting for their MLS team is "World Class" and/or will provide a "World Class Soccer Experience".
Excuse me for being churlish, but when the Premiership or Serie A or the World Cup starts playing on plastic grass in stadiums built for American football that they've dummied up with tarps and fake roofs and painted canvas partitions so that the miserable 12,000 people in attendance don't rattle around like BB's in a boxcar, would you let me know? None of these joints, not one, is even in the same zip code as "World Class")
Still, for a team in Miami I'd even overlook all of that. To me, it's so important for MLS to be in Florida that I'd overlook a lot.
But MLS has enough hurdles to overcome already without the additional one of admitting that we're now the Triple A affiliate of a team in Spain.