MIAMI - Dressed in a tight-fitting grey suit complemented by a navy tie and white pocket square, David Beckham looks the epitome of a head-office honcho. By design.
The former international soccer star announced Wednesday that he plans to head a new Major League Soccer team in this international hub, and the prospect has him pumped.
"I like a challenge," Beckham, 38, tells USA TODAY, sitting in an expansive room at the Perez Art Museum with endless views of blue water and green palms. "As soon as this city was mentioned as an option (for a new MLS franchise), it felt right to me."
The man has neatly summed up both the appeal and stakes of launching a new sports franchise in a city whose last pro soccer team, the Fusion, died in 2001.
On the one hand, with its warm weather and raging nightlife, Miami seems a perfect fit for the style icon and his fashion-forward wife, the former "Posh" Spice Girl, Victoria. While the couple and their four children now are based in London, Beckham says they plan to buy a home here soon.
"We are committed to this town," he says emphatically. "I don't do anything unless I can give it 100%."
But on the other hand, hurdles loom. In the near-term, city officials still need to secure a downtown site for a soccer-specific stadium, which will be entirely funded by Beckham and his investors, who include his manager, entertainment magnate Simon Fuller, and Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure. They're hoping to do so by summer, so the new team can take the field by 2016.
And in the long-term, there's simply proving that his unnamed club can lure roughly 30,000 fans weekly to its matches.
But Beckham makes clear throughout an animated conversation that if the task ahead were easy, he wouldn't be interested.
"When I first came to play in L.A. (with the Galaxy) in 2007 (after a storied European career with Manchester United and Real Madrid), I promised that I'd be committed to the MLS and the game in this country," he says in a slightly high-pitched British accent, referring to an initial contract option that allowed him to buy into a franchise for $25 million which, seven years later, he's now exercising.
"This is a new time for the league. I've seen the growth of this game in this country, the stadiums that were built, the great European players that have come and the great American players who've been created," he says, leaning in. "Look, Americans want to be number one at everything. And they are at baseball, football, basketball. Soccer is growing fast, and I want to be a part to that."
MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who joined Beckham as well as Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez for the packed press conference earlier in the day, says the importance of having Beckham as a team owner goes beyond his simply being a global celebrity who recently took center stage in a Super Bowl ad for H&M underwear.
"He toiled in the sport at its highest levels for years, so to have him transition to owner allows us to think about our league in a different way," says Garber. "He's a serious guy who's not doing this for a vanity play. He's got the game knowledge, the players' respect and connections with global corporations."
Garber says Miami's past soccer misadventures will remain in the past: "The Fusion were a good idea at the wrong time. This is the right idea at the right time."
Beckham himself is quick to note that the city's current love affair with its championship NBA team is proof that, properly executed, a new franchise can galvanize a community. He will no doubt be seeking to tap into the flood of immigrants that have come to this town from Latin America, many nurturing a predisposed love for what Brazilian soccer legend Pele dubbed "the beautiful game."
"One of the things that sealed it for me was going to a Heat playoff game last year, and seeing the passion of the people," he says. "When you have a successful team, people come. That's the challenge. People talk about, 'How are you going to get 25,000 or 30,000 people into your stadium?' It won't be easy when it's not the number one sport, but it's possible."
Longtime friend, adviser and business partner Simon Fuller, who created "Pop Idol" in England before bringing it stateside as "American Idol," insists only a fool would bet against Beckham.
"Everything he does is about challenging convention," says Fuller. "David's childhood dreams all started young, and he's managed to realize most of them. That's because he's always heading somewhere, with a vision. And this is his vision now. He gets to promote the sport he so loves in a country he loves."
Beckham says the reason he's not taking on an ownership role on his home continent is simple loyalty.
"For me, I'm a Manchester United guy, that's it, that's why I could never play for any other club in England," he says with a smile that would appear to leave to the door open for an eventual role in that club's leadership ranks.
But Fuller suggests that what appeals to particularly Beckham about this Miami venture is that is a blank slate for his friend to sketch on.
"Remember, in England our teams are often 100 years old, everything's established," he says. "But here, David can pick the team colors, the jerseys, he can built something that expresses what he loves about the game. That's what this is all about. Passion."
Which requires energy. And from the frenzied Miami roll-out it's clear Beckham has that in abundance. He's besieged all day by reporters, and yet seems to answer each question as if it's his first.
One moment, a Latin American reporter wants his take on the upcoming World Cup, another Ryan Seacrest is on the phone asking about his Valentine's Day plans. Turns out, Beckham is heading to the Philippines on a humanitarian mission.
He's even easy to laugh. When asked if his dapper outfit was chosen by his wife, Beckham smiles. "No, I dress myself, thank you," he jokes. "But she's my wife, so I trust her opinion, so if she says I look bad, I'm not going to argue with that."
Does she ever tell her husband he doesn't look great?
"Not often thankfully." Big laugh. "But yes, every now and again."
Beckham retired from soccer last year with a few months at Paris Saint-Germain, capping a stellar international career that saw him win league titles in four countries, the U.S., England, Spain and France.
But clearly retirement is a word he doesn't understand. Between modeling, fashion companies and charities alone, he's double-booked into eternity without adding the pressures of starting a new MLS team in Miami.
"I'm a busy man, with a busy life and a family that comes first," Beckham says. "So, yes, I don't have to do this project. I want to do it."