Starting from scratch, David Beckham's Inter Miami are coming together on and off the pitch ahead of their highly anticipated MLS debut.
From a team name, logo, building a new stadium, to assembling a squad and the search for a head coach. A lot has been happening behind the scenes but Inter are on track to make history against Los Angeles FC on March 1, 2020.
It has been a long time coming for co-owner Beckham, who exercised his option to purchase an expansion team – built into his LA Galaxy contract – at a discounted fee in 2014. Inter were granted the 25th MLS franchise in January 2018.
The proposed 25,000-capacity Miami Freedom Park complex is the jewel in Inter's crown. Costing almost $1billion, the world-class facility – scheduled to open in 2022 – will not only house Inter but include restaurants and shops. In the meantime, the club will play at the new Lockhart Stadium, still under construction, in Fort Lauderdale, where the site will remain the permanent training complex for Inter's teams, including their youth academy.
When Inter open their inaugural season at LAFC before welcoming Beckham's former team the Galaxy to Lockhart on March 14, all the I's will have been dotted and the T's crossed.
"It's difficult," Inter sporting director Paul McDonough told Omnisport. "You're starting everything from zero. When you even think about something as small as IT or benefits for employees.
"You have to do all those types of things. Build facilities, rosters and staff. There's a lot to do when you start from scratch. What you hope is that you don't make any big mistakes. You're going to make mistakes, that's just the nature of the beast."
However, McDonough said: "The goal for us is to come and be competitive in year one. We aren't coming it just to be another team and try to build into this thing over three years. We're coming to compete."
McDonough is no stranger to helping build teams from scratch. He was lured to Inter, having played a huge role in the success of Atlanta United on and off the field. Atlanta entered the league in 2017 and won the MLS Cup the following year.
Prior to that, McDonough was the vice-president of football operations at another expansion franchise – Orlando City.
"This is most like Atlanta in the sense of ambition and the power of the ownership group," McDonough said. "That was evident in Atlanta and the only reason why I left was because I thought the ownership group and the owners had a similar philosophy to Arthur Blank. They've proven to me so far, with resources to go pursue players and building facilities and staffing. They're on par with the more aggressive ownerships in the league."
Inter are still without a coach. River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo and Nice's Patrick Vieira have been linked. But it is business as usual for McDonough, who continues to shape the club's roster based on a collective vision.
As it stands, 19 players have been signed, including designated player Matias Pellegrini from Estudiantes for a reported fee between $6-9m, star goalkeeper Luis Robles, Jamaica international Alvas Powell and Lee Nguyen.
"If you're going to be a good club, you have to set your vision," McDonough added. "Over here there's a lot of conversations about who sets that vision. There's a lot of belief that the coach sets the vision. I honestly just don't believe that. I think the best clubs in the world set the vision for the club and the coaches come and adopt and adjust to that. That's super important. If we flip-flop on the visions of each coach, that means we're changing our direction every three-four years, and that's a problem I think."
Manchester City star David Silva is reportedly set to headline Inter's squad in 2020. Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and Barcelona forward Luis Suarez have also been linked – Miami's beautiful weather, beaches and nightlife makes South Florida an attractive destination for elite athletes. LeBron James won two NBA champions during his time with the Miami Heat.
"I think we have a lot of interest from players," McDonough said, when asked whether it was important to have star names from the get-go. "I think when you go and get that star player just to drive ticket sales and sponsorships, then I don't think that's a really good starting point for your club.
"What I found in time is that you never really recapture that investment and it actually hurts the club in the long term. What you see now here is there's a larger investment in buying younger players and developing them. They're talented and can be some of the better players in the league. Your cash outlay is a little bit more up front but if you look at the total package, it's very similar to getting one of those star players. At the end of it all, you hopefully get an opportunity to sell that player for some return."
"The calls come a lot because people want to live in Miami," he continued. "Then the hard part comes is do they fit into the philosophy of the club, the salary structure. One of the hard parts is you want players coming for the right reasons. South Beach is a great place, but South Beach doesn't really help me win games. They need to come here to win. I think that's the big thing we have to measure is are guys coming here for the quality of life, the lifestyle and the night life or are they coming here because they want to win championships."
So, what is like to work with former Manchester United, Real Madrid, Milan and PSG sensation Beckham?
"He is a really good owner. If we need something, then he is there to do whatever is needed. Whether that be talking to a player we're trying to sign or a coach, or just to talk about how we're doing with the academy," McDonough said. "He is accessible to us for all of those things."