On Wednesday David Beckham, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the Mayor of Miami-Dade County Carlos Jimenez announced that Major League Soccer’s 22nd franchise will be based in Miami.
The worst kept secret in U.S. soccer is finally out.
But, as there always is with MLS expansion franchises, there are plenty of doubts as to whether a Major League Soccer side in South Florida is a good idea.
Of course, we’ve been down this road before and it ended it tears with the Miami Fusion lasting less than four years after being dissolved due to many issues back in 2001. At the time Garber said the following about soccer in Miami:
“While Miami had the third lowest average attendance, it had the lowest revenue in the league this year (2001), including fewer season tickets which are upfront money that have a higher yield for each team. They (Miami) had almost no revenue from corporate sponsorships. The issue in Miami is the lack of revenue and the lack of future potential revenue. It really lacked viability as a business.”
Why will it be a different story for soccer in Miami in 2014 and beyond?
Here’s a few reasons to get you thinking…
David Beckham factor
With his own brand flourishing even further since his retirement from the game, Beckham brings an X-Factor that was never present in Miami back at the turn of the last century. Despite Carlos Valderrama being around and some terrific performances from the Fusion under Ray Hudson as coach in their final season in the league. MLS was in its infancy and bleeding money, with the league estimated to have lost over $250 million in its first few years. Miami had the lowest season tickets sold and revenue and sponsorship streams were almost non-existence. That, coupled with the relatively frugal spending of Chairman Ken Hororwitz and the other investors, proved too much for MLS to handle as Miami and the Tampa Bay Mutiny ceased operations in 2001.
Here’s a quote from Horowitz on the problems facing the Fusion on 2001: “My investors and I have invested close to $50 million in South Florida Soccer, the entity that operates the Miami Fusion, as well as a massive amount of personal time and emotional commitment. We’ve come to the conclusion that the South Florida market just has too many hurdles that we simply cannot overcome.”
If you build it, they will come
Plans for a new downtown stadium near the harbor of Miami look swish, extravagant and everything you’d expect from a sports franchise in one of the USA’s most glamorous and tropical settings. A soccer-specific stadium close to downtown Miami would be something to behold, and as we’ve seen in Houston and will see in Orlando, a prime downtown location for your MLS team is exactly whats needed. That’s something the former MLS side in Miami didn’t have, as the Fusion played out near Fort Lauderdale at Lockhart Stadium, where fans couldn’t simply stroll across to the street from the fine bars and restaurants of central Miami to continue the party inside the stadium, and go out on the town afterwards. The only potential issue is that the various nationalities and backgrounds of the people of Miami will clash, and as we’ve seen with the Dolphins, Marlins and other pro Sports team in the area, fans are much more passionate about teams in their homelands rather than getting behind a local franchise.
Prime real estate won’t come cheap for Becks and co. but it’s expected that the major announcement on Wednesday will also reveal plans for a SSS in the heart of Miami. This is a key reason why MLS in Miami could succeed this time.
The DP rule will play into Miami’s hands
A no-brainer here, as Beckham’s contacts across the world and his heady status as a global icon will surely attract top players who want to flock to South Beach towards the end of their careers. Playing in MLS for Miami will be one of the most attractive propositions for any player on the planet. The main focus will be getting bums on seats and fans to watch a spectacular team play. If Becks can work his contacts and bring in three HUGE Designated Players, then the people of Miami and the millions of tourists that flock there year round will without doubt fills the stands. Back when the Fusion folded, there were a few stars names like Valderrama but nobody that really jumped off the page. This time, that will be vastly different.