It has taken a long time, but this weekend Club Internacional de Futbol Miami will finally play their first competitive match.
When they take to the pitch against Los Angeles FC on Sunday, Inter Miami’s players will be fulfilling the ambitions of one of their owners.
David Beckham has been attempting to establish a team in Major League Soccer ever since he retired from playing football in 2013, but the idea itself can be traced back to January 2007 when he left Real Madrid to join LA Galaxy.
Beckham’s contract with the MLS club stated he would later be able to buy the rights to an expansion team for $25m, a huge discount on the usual $150m fee. Once he hung up his boots, that is exactly what he did.
Being one of the most famous faces in the world might have opened the door, but it hasn’t prevented the establishment of Inter Miami from being a long slog of a process.
Beckham told the BBC this week that he has needed all his “perseverance, stubbornness and just bloody-mindedness” to bring the idea to fruition.
While Beckham is the face of the franchise, he is not the sole owner. The former England captain has clubbed together with Florida building magnates Jorge and Jose Mas, Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure and Korean-Japanese entrepreneur Masayoshi Son to make the dream come true.
MLS is no stranger to introducing new teams. Sunday’s opponent’s Los Angeles FC, Orlando City, Atlanta United, New York City FC, Minnesota United and FC Cincinnati have all joined the league since 2014, but the proliferation of new clubs does not mean it is easy.
The reasoning behind the location was sound. Miami has strong links to sport. The city in southern Florida is home to the Dolphins (NFL), Heat (NBA) and Marlins (MLB) and has hosted a record 11 Super Bowls.
The International Champions Cup frequently comes to town, including when a Clasico, between Real Madrid and Barcelona, was hosted there in 2017. Hard Rock Stadium, which hosted the Super Bowl earlier this month, is also one of the venues for the 2026 World Cup, which will be held across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Despite this pedigree and a population exceeding 6m, the city has not had a top-flight soccer side since Miami Fusion folded in 2001. That is about to change – albeit not quite yet.
Inter Miami will play at Lockhart Stadium in nearby Fort Lauderdale for their first two seasons, while the proposed 25,000-seat Miami Freedom Park is built – the piece of the jigsaw which has proved the most troublesome to place.
While location issues and planning permission have been bugbears, other hurdles still remain. Inter Milan have launched a trademark dispute against their name, although co-owner Jorge Mas described the situation this week as “a non-issue”.
Despite the inevitable speculation around star players due to Beckham’s involvement, the team which takes the pitch this weekend contains no star names.
Inter Miami’s two designated players – those who don’t count towards the salary cap – are not big-name targets David Silva or Edinson Cavani, but young Argentinian midfielder Matias Pellegrini and Mexico international Rodolfo Pizarro.
Win or lose on the pitch, with Beckham on board and a market ripe for growth there is likely to be significant investment in Inter Milan.
Jorge Mas refused to comment on reports that Qatar Airways have signed a £180m deal to become the club’s shirt and stadium sponsor, but has set his ambitions high.
“Miami is the future – a hyperglobal, yet local community,” the team’s website proclaims. “We are here to change the game.” Now they have launched, Inter Miami are one step closer to achieving that lofty goal.