Barca to bid for Miami franchise

Spanish giants Barcelona will launch a bid with a Bolivian entrepreneur to become co-owners of a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in Miami in the United States.

"If the deal comes off, they will become the first European club to enjoy direct association with the North American league," Barcelona said in a statement posted on their official website.

The club will make the bid together with Miami-based Bolivian mogul Marcelo Claure, the co-chairman of Bolivian top-flight team FC Bolivar with whom Barcelona already collaborate.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta and Joan Oliver, the club's corporate director, will present their plans in Miami.

The Catalan club said it was already in negotiations with Florida International University to use its grounds in Miami for at least the first two years of the franchise's existence, the statement said.

Miami Fusion played in the MLS from 1998 to 2001 before losing its franchise.  But the failure of the club to draw crowds was blamed on the fact that its stadium was located in the nearby city of Fort Lauderdale instead of in Miami, which has a huge football-mad Latino community.

MLS currently has 14 teams with Seattle joining in 2009 and Philadelphia in 2010. It plans to add two teams for the 2011 season with an announcement expected sometime next year.

Portland, Las Vegas Montreal in Canada are other candidate cities. In May Barcelona signed a strategic agreement with the MLS to promote the club's brand in the United States.

This alliance included an agreement that Barcelona play at least six exhibition matches in the States over the next five years, two of which were played in August.