David Beckham's Inter Miami Major League Soccer franchise will make their home debut against the superstar's former team Los Angeles Galaxy next year, team officials confirmed Wednesday.
Beckham's six-year quest to bring top level football back to South Florida will finally become a reality when the new season starts next February, although the team will begin the campaign on the road while the building of their Fort Lauderdale stadium is completed.
The 19,000-capacity stadium is currently under construction although club officials stress it will be finished in time for the opening home fixture on March 14.
"This is a historic day that our community has waited for, and we look forward to experiencing it together," Inter Miami official Jurgen Mainka said of the Galaxy fixture.
Inter Miami Sporting Director Paul McDonough meanwhile said Wednesday he has been working closely with Beckham as they attempt to build a squad capable of challenging in MLS.
McDonough, who performed similar roles at expansion teams Orlando City and Atlanta United, admits Beckham's availability and contacts could give Inter Miami a recruitment edge over their rivals.
The club have yet to appoint a manager but have begun to build a squad with Estudiantes' highly-rated 19-year-old forward Matías Pellegrini arriving in July to become the franchise's first designated player (DP). He was subsequently returned to loan to the Argentine side.
McDonough is confident of filling the remaining two 'DP' slots and appointing a world renowned coach by the end of the year.
Colombian internationals Radamel Falcao and James Rodríguez, Uruguayan strikers Luis Suárez and Edison Cavani, as well as Manchester City's Spanish midfielder David Silva have all been linked with moves but Beckham's role in recruitment, however, is key.
McDonough told AFP: "I spoke to David [Beckham] this morning for an hour, even though he was travelling. I was updating him and getting his impressions on things. David isn't here in Miami every day but every day he has a touch point with the club.
"I asked him to call a couple of players I spoke to yesterday. I told him 'they want to hear from you' and so he's very involved. You cannot put a price on having someone of his standing in the game involved with us and being able to talk to players.
"It's amazing to think about the capacity he has to help out and what he can do for the team. I have been surprised by just how hands on he has been."
"I grew up watching him playing for Manchester United so when I came to the club and met him for the first time, the relationship began to grow but I have seen how enthused he is, how he wants to do things the right way and has a vision. It definitely gives us an edge."
McDonough was speaking to reporters during a media visit to Inter Miami's Fort Lauderdale stadium on Wednesday.
The team plan to play their first two MLS seasons at the stadium before moving into a US$1 billion technology hub and stadium complex at the Melreese golf course near Miami airport.
However the Miami project has stalled amid red tape and political wrangling.
Inter and fellow newcomers Nashville will pluck talent from Major League Soccer rivals in a November expansion draft, the league announced recently.
The MLS Expansion Priority Draft will be staged on October 6, the final day of the league's regular season, with a coin flip to decide whether Miami or Nashville makes the first pick in the MLS Expansion Draft on November 19, officials said.
The loser will have the first choice among new young talent in the 2020 MLS Draft and the new clubs will alternate the better positions in other roster-building opportunities such as waiver selection order when players are released.
Former England star Beckham, whose 2007 deal to join the Los Angeles Galaxy included rights to purchase an MLS expansion club at a discount, will finally see his long-delayed squad take the field in 2020.
Miami and Nashville will be the 25th and 26th teams in the North American elite league with Austin, Texas, and St. Louis to be added later and other markets in the hunt for clubs.
Expansion draft picks, up to five each for Miami and Nashville, are critical choices where new clubs can make crucial additions to the roster from the ranks of experienced MLS players on other teams. Each MLS team can protect up to 12 players on its roster with a final list of available talent to be determined on November 16.
Five teams who lost players to 2019 newcomer FC Cincinnati in last year's expansion draft – DC United, Vancouver Whitecaps, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls – are exempt this time around.