David Beckham became a Major League Soccer player in January 2007, putting pen to paper on a five-year contract worth a reported $250m at Los Angeles Galaxy. Unbeknownst to most at the time, one of the clauses included within that deal that brought the former Manchester United man to the US west coast was a provision to buy a future MLS franchise for $25m.
He became a ‘major player’ in transforming the face of the North American soccer landscape. Seven franchises were added between the time he joined and the time he left in 2012. MLS also instigated what would come to be known as 'The Beckham Rule', but officially titled the Designated Player Rule, in order to legitimise his gargantuan pay packet, wherein franchises are allowed to sign up to three players on wages outside of the salary cap, paving the way for such high-profile players to arrive in the States as Freddie Ljungberg, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In 2013 he had hung up his boots whilst at Paris Saint-Germain, bringing the curtain down on a career that had scooped titles from his bildungsroman across England, Spain, France, and the US. The very same year, after that emotional farewell at the Parc des Princes, an expansion of MLS with David Beckham the figurehead was revealed by the League Commissioner Don Garber, the location being cited as Miami, Florida dependant on stadium regulations. MLS executive vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche further confirmed that there had been discussions with Beckham’s advisers and management.
Discussions and rumours were ongoing with lack of confirmation for the next several years, until a consortium made up of billionaire brothers Jorge and Jose Mas, and Masayoshi Son (ranked the 43rd richest person in the world in 2019) amongst others made the existence of the club take a step in the right direction. In September 2018, the former England captain finally unveiled his new franchise as Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, or as more commonly recognised, Inter Miami.
There were the new colours, black and pink, a new crest, and, eventually, a new head coach was announced in former footballer and head of Monterrey, Diego Alonso. Midfielder Matias Pellegrini, an arrival from Argentine outfit Estudiantes is a beneficiary of the Beckham Rule. 2020 will be their debut season, one of two expansion clubs new to MLS alongside Nashville SC to create a 26-team league.
But just as Inter Miami readies itself to begin burning, the flames are being threatened to be put out.
Unfortunately for Beckham & Co, the Serie A outfit Inter Milan had filed a US Patent and Trademark application in 2014 to make 'Inter' its exclusive brand in the US and the ambitious American side now have to proceed through the courts to resolve the matter.
Not the most auspicious of starts…
Spare a thought for Inter Miami’s eager fanbase, however. Banners made, shirts and season tickets bought, even tattoos inked! Residents have longed for their own football team since Miami Fusion were dissolved in 2002 and their prayers have finally been answered.
“It was natural to support Inter once it was announced Miami would have its own team,” a spokesperson for Vice City 1896 told The Sportsman.
“We jumped on board as soon as the announcement was made. I mean several people from Vice City 1896 have been invested since they were part of the Afusionados, the supporter group for the Miami Fusion. But Vice City 1896 started with a group of friends just meeting up to talk football and have a good time, and once the announcement was made that MLS was coming to Miami, we took the momentum and ran with it.”
While it’s a major plus for football fans in Miami, Beckham’s new club is also a huge boost for the area as a whole.
“Our own MLS franchise is huge for this city. Soccer is the world’s sport, and that’s a fact.
“The obvious things it brings to Miami are jobs, facilities, academies that benefit the future of the young soccer players in the area, etc, but beyond that, soccer brings people together more than any other sport, and in a city where pride is more important than anything, Inter Miami is going to bring the community together more than ever before.”
It’s full steam ahead for this buoyant new fanbase but one slight issue is that conflict over the name. It could well change but Vice City 1896 aren’t too concerned. They insist that whatever they’re known as, the club will always be international.
“We’re not really looking too deep into the issue. A positive or negative outcome doesn’t affect our passion as fans. We’re here to support Miami football, no matter what the name is. At the end of the day the team represents Miami and that’s what Vice City 1896 is in support of.... football in Miami.
“The name Inter Miami represents exactly what Miami is... an international city. Miami has people from so many different cultures - South American, Caribbean, European, and others.
“Everyone here has an origin story but at the end of the day everyone here is Miami. That’s why the name fits. As for retaining it, we will still be what we are. Whether or not the word “Inter” is on the jersey, every fan feels it already. Miami is International and not many cities are like that.”
International is right. While plenty of locals will be supporting the club, already they have fans in England too. The Beckham factor has also played a huge part in enticing new followers.
“Growing up in the early noughties I looked up to David Beckham, being football mad, and his performances for England especially inspired me to fall in love with the game,” Jake Derisz, who runs the Inter Miami UK Fans Twitter account, told us.
“I’ve followed his career which has ultimately led to this Inter Miami adventure, I was fascinated by the whole project, starting a club from scratch, and had to get involved.”
A new supporter from abroad, he believes keeping the ‘Inter’ name is vital.
“I believe it represents freedom to dream, showcasing that anything is possible. David Beckham and his team have shown you can start a football team, build a cult following and a stadium from absolutely nothing, therefore it is paramount we keep our original name of Inter Miami CF to continue this dream into one day winning MLS at Freedom Park."
The countdown is on to their maiden campaign but they are not content to just make up the numbers, they want to win. Big games, big nights and even big rivalries are on the way.
“Orlando is gonna be a good one, due to them being so close... one team has to be the best in the state, no?” Vice City 1896 explain to us.
"The obvious big games will be fun... LAFC, NYRB, Galaxy... it’s our first year so it’s our first time seeing all these teams with our own eyes while supporting OUR team. We’re looking forward to it all. The expectations are huge. Miami is known for going above and beyond with everything that occurs here. That’s why everyone is expecting a lot from the team's inaugural season.
“Everyone wants to win as much as possible especially in the first season, but regardless if those expectations are met, Vice City 1896 and the fans will be there supporting through the good times and the bad. Always.”