David Beckham needs land for a youth soccer academy. A former landfill might work

The Doral area may land David Beckham’s planned soccer academy for young players from across South Florida, as Miami-Dade takes the first steps to create a new soccer complex out of an old landfill near President Donald Trump’s golf resort.

This week, the county’s Parks committee will consider a resolution instructing Mayor Carlos Gimenez to draft an invitation for private operators to submit proposals for how they would develop the site at 9000 NW 58th St. into a soccer complex.

Beckham’s partners have already been in talks with the county about using the 47-acre site just outside Doral city limits for a Major League Soccer youth academy, but a representative of the Beckham group said other locations are also under consideration.

The soccer group hasn’t said where it wants to build its academy, except that it likely would be away from its main stadium complex. The partnership needs Miami voter approval next month to win permission to construct the 25,000-seat stadium, mall and office park that Beckham wants in order to launch his MLS franchise, Inter Miami FC, at Miami Freedom Park.

An MLS academy typically combines free training of elite players who are on track for roster spots on the city’s pro franchise with a revenue-generating coaching program catering to boys and girls who would otherwise join other recreational leagues. The Orlando MLS franchise charges up to $2,500 a year for its youth programs.

Steve Marin, a consultant with the Beckham group, confirmed the Doral site has been on a list of potential sites. “They’ve looked at that,” he said. “And they’ve looked at a bunch of places.”

The county resolution up for a preliminary vote Thursday morning is sponsored by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who represents Doral. It does not mention Beckham or any other potential bidders. A spokeswoman for Diaz said he has not spoken to the Beckham team about the proposal.

Juan Carlos Bermudez, the mayor of Doral, said the soccer plan came well before Beckham was seen as a potential developer. “This has been kicking around for years,” he said.

The former landfill was closed in 1987, capped, and converted into a development site. Miami-Dade began seeking a developer for a soccer complex in 2012.

That plan fizzled at roughly the same time Beckham first began scouting Miami-Dade for a new MLS franchise. In 2014, county voters approved a charter change that allows for some commercial development on the site, including dormitories for a potential soccer academy. The land sits just north of the Trump National Doral Miami.

One issue could be odors from existing landfills nearby, a frequent complaint in that part of Doral, Bermudez said. He also said the city has concerns about added traffic, though the land falls under county zoning rules since it sits outside Doral limits.

MLS academies put local players on track to play for professional teams, with each franchise able to lock in locals from being recruited elsewhere in the league, said MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche. “We’re the only league in this country where you can be designated as a hometown player,” he said. “If InterMiami develops that player, they have the rights to that player.”

The prospect of turning pro helps MLS recruit a broader range of young soccer players willing to pay in order to be part of the league’s program. MLS academies charge for regular youth leagues, camps, training days and other offerings that underpin the youth-sports industry.

“Many of our clubs have affiliate teams where the kids do pay a fee to play — much like the rest of youth sports,” Courtemanche said. “If you’re good enough, you’ll move up to the academy team.”