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Messi’s Not Alone: FIFA, Argentina's National Team Plan Moves To Miami

The greatest soccer player alive, Lionel Messi, is heading to Miami for the next phase of his career, but he isn't the only international soccer powerhouse looking to put down roots in the Magic City.

Lionel Messi's move to Inter Miami comes as the city is attracting investment from soccer teams and companies.

FIFA, soccer's international governing body, is negotiating a lease for as much as 60K SF in Coral Gables, Bloomberg reports. The lease talks come as Zurich-based FIFA looks to build its presence in South Florida ahead of the 2026 World Cup, when Miami and 15 other cities in the U.S., Mexico and Canada will host games. The office would become FIFA’s long-term U.S. base after the tournament, according to the report. 

The move from FIFA is the latest in a string of developments that could position Miami as an international destination for soccer fans, players and businesses.

Messi, the Argentinian soccer superstar, announced last week that he will transfer to Major League Soccer's Inter Miami, reportedly rejecting offers from Saudi Arabia and his former club Barcelona for a contract that includes deals with Apple and Adidas.

The announcement sent ticket prices soaring, reportedly by 1,000%, for Inter Miami games and created buzz in the real estate community about Messi's potential to draw new customers from Latin America. 

Messi’s arrival comes as his new club is working with Miami-Dade County to begin construction on Miami Freedom Park, a 73-acre development on a former municipal golf course that would include a 25,000-seat stadium. 

Inter Miami is partly owned by soccer legend David Beckham, who purchased the team as part of an expansion deal built into his MLS contract, along with Jorge and Jose Mas, the leaders of Miami-based construction firm MasTec.

The team currently plays at DRV PNK Stadium in Broward County, where it debuted in 2020 after failing to find a suitable location in Miami.

Around 60% of Miami-Dade voters approved plans in November 2018 to shutter the county-run Melreese Country Club near the Miami International Airport to make way for the stadium development, but the plan has stalled for years through the county approval process. 

That led Inter Miami to construct the 18,000-seat stadium in a northern portion of Fort Lauderdale in 2019 as a temporary home for the team while it explored options in Miami-Dade County.

The new stadium would be built with private funding, according to a website promoting the project, but it has been unable to secure the necessary zoning variances to begin construction. The Miami-Dade Airport and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday are scheduled to consider an ordinance to adjust zoning rules around the airport’s “outer safety zone” to allow for the project to move forward.

The proposed stadium is outside of the zone, where establishments that would draw large crowds are banned, but many of the development’s planned restaurants and other businesses are not, the Miami Herald reported

If the ordinance clears the committee, it will still require final approval from the county commission before construction can begin.

Inter Miami isn't the only team looking to put down roots in Miami. The Argentine Football Association is also planning to make the city its U.S. headquarters, The Athletic reported

Argentina’s national soccer team is working with Miami-Dade Public Schools and the local government in North Bay Village, a small three-island community nestled between Miami and Miami Beach, to build a training facility and office in the neighborhood.

The project is adjacent to Treasure Island Elementary School and includes five synthetic turf soccer fields, a community center, a dog park and paddle ball courts. A representative from the AFA told The Athletic that the facility would become the team’s U.S. headquarters and would occasionally host the men’s national team, for which the 35-year-old Messi has starred since he was a teenager, for training. 

“North Bay Village won’t be the only facility that we build,” Leando Petersen, the AFA’s chief commercial and marketing officer, told The Athletic. “It’ll be the standard for how we’ll expand throughout the United States, with more training centers and academies around the country. We want to be part of these communities. We want people to be proud that the AFA is in their communities. We’ll create public spaces for families.”