MIAMI -- Over the past four years, David Beckham had doubts his MLS expansion franchise would ever come to fruition. But despite the struggles to find a stadium site and a search for local investors, Beckham said he never wavered on Miami as the city where he wanted to launch a team.
On Monday, MLS officially awarded an expansion team in Miami to Beckham's ownership group, the culmination of a years-long process that nearly reached a breaking point a few months ago.
Now, the team's debut seems in sight.
Monday's announcement did not confirm the team's name or when it will begin playing, but Beckham told ESPN the aim is for the team to begin play in 2020 and "hopefully the stadium will be built [by] 2021."
MLS commissioner Don Garber said Miami will aim to start in 2020 at a temporary venue, after past successes of Orlando City and Atlanta United's openings provided confidence that Miami can do the same.
But before then, Beckham said there's still plenty of work to be done.
"People are turning around to me already and saying, 'What players are you getting?' We're not at that stage yet," Beckham told ESPN. "Yes, we have a wish list, yes we want to create a state-of-the-art academy that brings young talented local kids through the ranks. ... We have to set up the academy, that's the first thing we do, and then we go from there."
Though a stadium site has been identified in the Overtown neighborhood, there are still legal hurdles and months of construction ahead. The team does not yet have a name, a logo or colors. Beckham said the hope is for the fans to be involved in naming the team.
After years of setbacks, however, the announcement marked a critical point for the project. And Beckham said the day felt that much more sweet because of the many setbacks that occurred along the way.
"It never crossed my mind to not do it, even though we were going through frustrating times," Beckham said. "It never crossed my mind to take it to any other city because I know Miami is the right city."
The Miami Beckham United ownership group, approved by the MLS Board of Governors last month, includes local businessman Jorge Mas, who lost out on a bid to buy the Miami Marlins baseball team last year, his brother Jose Mas, Sprint chairman Masayoshi Son and CEO Marcelo Claure, and entertainment mogul Simon Fuller.
As part of the deal he signed to play with the LA Galaxy in 2007, Beckham had the option to start a new team for a heavily discounted expansion fee of around $25 million. But the MLS project has been beset by a series of delays, largely centering around finding a suitable stadium site.
Miami-Dade County rejected the initial target of a waterfront site at PortMiami, and MLS preferred a downtown site to a spot next to Marlins Park in Little Havana. But last year the ownership group finally secured land in the Overtown neighborhood and unveiled plans for a privately funded $200 million, 25,000-seat stadium.
The site is not far from downtown, but the plan did not include any available parking, instead relying on the nearby Metrorail shuttle, buses, water taxis on the Miami River, and fans wanting to march en masse toward the stadium.
Many of those stadium plans were developed by Tim Leiweke, who is no longer part of the ownership group after the addition of the Mas brothers, and though the Miami Herald reported last week other sites may be back on the table, Beckham told Miami's Local 10 News on Sunday that the group would be staying in Overtown.
Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez said he hoped to see the team launch before the stadium is finished, if possible.
"There are other venues, absolutely, [but] that's up to the ownership group to see if they can utilize these other venues," Gimenez told ESPN. "... I would love to get a team up and running as quickly as possible, obviously not in the new stadium, because it will take two to three years to get the stadium up and running. There are other venues in this town that would be pretty good temporary sites."
The Miami club is separate from MLS's other expansion plans, which recently introduced Nashville as the league's 24th team, with another -- one of Cincinnati, Sacramento or Detroit -- expected to be announced by March. Those teams are expected to have to pay an expansion fee of around $150 million.
MLS will return to Miami for the first time since 2001, when the Miami Fusion -- which played in Fort Lauderdale -- folded after four seasons.
Miami FC, owned by Riccardo Silva, has played in the rival NASL since 2015, but the future of that league is in jeopardy after U.S. Soccer denied it Division 2 status for 2018.