By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press
PALMETTO BAY, Fla. (AP) — There were 800 kids seated and waiting in the gym at Palmer Trinity School, the sixth through 12th graders all eager to learn the identity of the special guest that was coming to celebrate the school's first Florida high school soccer state championship.
And when David Beckham appeared in the doorway, they started roaring.
"I love you David," a girl shrieked.
"I love you too," Beckham replied, to more cheering.
There's still two more years until his new Miami MLS franchise plays its first official match, but Beckham is already celebrating soccer championships in South Florida. The global soccer icon appeared at two high school state-title celebrations Friday morning in the Miami area, first for a girls team at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy followed by the one honoring the boys team at Palmer Trinity.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Raw video: David Beckham honors the state boys soccer champions at <a href="https://twitter.com/palmertrinity?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@palmertrinity</a> today. <a href="https://t.co/WlnUQelmru">pic.twitter.com/WlnUQelmru</a></p>— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) <a href="https://twitter.com/ByTimReynolds/status/969666693109833729?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
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For Beckham, the outreach is one key part of his plan to start building a fan base.
"How can you not enjoy these moments?" Beckham told The Associated Press following the Palmer Trinity ceremony, and before he made the 30-minute ride to downtown Miami for an afternoon of MLS-related meetings. "For me, it's always been important to go to different schools around the world, luckily, and I've seen some amazing kids and some amazing young talented kids as well. It's obvious, but kids are our future."
Beckham and his business partner Jorge Mas both donned Palmer Trinity shirts for the party, posed for a ton of selfies and spoke to the kids — enjoying it all so much that they stayed longer than they planned. Their MLS team doesn't have a name yet, but it's a safe bet the franchise picked up plenty of new fans Friday.
"It's the first soccer state title for our school, so that's special on its own," said Palmer Trinity board of trustees chair Michael Baiamonte. "And then having David Beckham here to celebrate with our students, that makes it even more memorable for them. They know not everyone gets a chance for a day like this."
Beckham has said he plans to be active and visible in Miami during the process of getting his team launched. It took the former Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and English national team star several years to make his vision of bringing an MLS franchise back to South Florida a reality, and the team was officially awarded last month.
There's still no team name, colors or roster. And while there are plans for a stadium to open in 2021, it's still unclear where the team will play in its inaugural season. Mas also told The Miami Herald earlier this week that the group may ultimately decide that the current planned nine-acre plot for a 25,000-seat stadium isn't large enough for the sort of facility he wants to build.
Beckham said Friday that there's movement on a number of issues, including progress on the stadium, but offered no specifics.
"We are moving on a very tight schedule," Beckham said. "We're very confident that things are going very well at the moment. There's a lot of work that's been done since the announcement, and it's only been four weeks."