By Andrea Canales
Barcelona president Joan Laporta may never have played soccer at a high
level, but that doesn't mean the lawyer doesn't know how to go on the
offensive. He is a tough competitor, and he is willing to say what is
needed to get something done.
Back when he was running for the
presidency of Barcelona, he promised to bring David Beckham to the
club. That helped get him to the post, though he ultimately failed in
that specific promise. Barcelona fans had to content themselves with
That ended up working out for Laporta, who is now spearheading a new
effort to bring land a Major League Soccer franchise in Miami. In this
enterprise, Laporta and Barcelona are teaming up with Miami businessman
Again, Laporta is ready to say whatever will get him ahead. When
Montreal, which seemed like an early front-runner in the bidding
status, balked at the 40 million dollar expansion price, Laporta took
quick advantage of the situation. According to Sports Business Journal,
Laporta affirmed that the Miami ownership group had no issues with the
price - as long as no other bidding group was allowed to join MLS at a
In essence, Laporta's stance put heavy pressure on the other ownership
groups, especially Vancouver and St. Louis, whose bidding plans depend
partly on an improvement in the credit crunch or stadium plan approval.
They may not have the full $40 million so readily at hand. With Laporta's ultimatum, the league might more easily cross them off the list.
But Laporta wasn't content with merely putting the screws to other
bidding groups. He moved to exert pressure on MLS by vowing that the
Barcelona Miami bid was a one-time offer and that if passed over, the
group would not wait for another year. Not only that, but he has also
insisted that the team be allowed to start in 2010, a year before MLS
had planned for the next bidding cycle winner to enter.
It's nothing new for foreigners to bluster into MLS full of confidence
and flush with capital and success elsewhere. That doesn't translate
into making it in MLS, as David Beckham is now well aware.
After all, it was in 2005 that Jorge Vegara famously said that his new
MLS squad would teach the league how to play the game. Even the opening
season motto, "El futbol esta aqui" seemed to imply that true soccer
had arrived only with Vergara's entry, Club Deportivo Chivas USA, to
the league. MLS accommodated Vergara's wish to place his franchise in
the Los Angeles area, breaking the previously-held stance that teams
should spread out.
The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how much energy or ideas
someone brings to MLS, they've got to perform where it counts, on the
field. Vergara's 2005 team didn't do that, setting an MLS record for
losses. Though the team has played much better since then, it is in
some ways still struggling to regain fans turned off by that debut
For that matter the Galaxy have lost season ticket holders since
Beckham's opening year. Like Laporte, now-departed Dutch coach Ruud
Guillit talked a good game, but he really had no idea how to work
within the MLS system to build a good team.
The thing is, in Europe, the shortcut to becoming a good team is fueled
by a lot of money. With the salary cap that rules MLS, foreigners are
deprived of a favorite tactic to success, the willingness to spend for
Basically, it doesn't matter how tough and shrewd Laporta seems or how
well-known Barcelona is - an MLS squad in Miami won't suceed without
victories. No one cares to hear outsiders complain about how hard it is
to work under the salary cap when all the other teams in MLS have had
to do it for years, either.
When all is said and done, the ball is round and the game is 90 minutes
long. And no matter a team's pedigree, there's only
one mantra that really matters - just win, baby.
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com USA