Barcelona's Miami MLS expansion bid in jeopardy
FC Barcelona's bid to bring a Major League Soccer club to Miami has long been considered the safest bet of all the expansion proposals. But on Friday, Barça director general Joan Olive said the tanking economy might threaten the club's plans to expand into the U.S.
"We want to enter the American league, but not at the cost of financial risk," Olive told Spanish daily Sport. "The chances of us not joining are higher than when we announced our interest."
The Barcelona-Miami bid, which is a joint-partnership with Bolivian-American tech magnate Marcelo Claure, who owns the Brightstar mobile phone company, was one of seven submitted last fall to MLS.
Other cities included Vancouver, Ottawa, Portland, Atlanta, St. Louis and Montreal. Since then, Atlanta and Montreal have dropped out of the running. The Miami bid was considered a frontrunner, and the prospective owners recently declared their desire to begin play in 2010, if their bid is accepted.
"We'll evaluate whether or not the change in the economy in the United States renders our model still viable," Olive noted.
Theoretically retaining a 30 percent stake in the new organization, Barcelona is set to provide not financial backing to the American team, but rather sporting and branding components.
"We'll provide the people, the coach, the technical secretary and the players," Olive said during the unveiling of the plans four months ago.
Barcelona's wavering may turn out to be premature, as MLS is not due to announce its decision on the two teams in the next round of expansion until next month. It might also be a preemptive move to possibly negotiate down the reported $40 million expansion fee.