Local Soccer Fans Should Support What They Have, Not Wish Upon an MLS Star

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Ever since the Miami Herald broke the news last week that soccer legend David Beckham would be in Miami for the Miami Heat game with Bolivian billionaire, Marcelo Cluade, facebook and twitter flooded with “MLS to Miami” talks.

As some of the people who have been following this story know, Beckham, who recently retired from soccer last month, played for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. In Becks’ MLS contract, there was a clause which included an option for becoming the owner of an MLS team for the discounted price of $25 million.

Miami HEAT’s LeBron James shakes David Beckham’s hand during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals

Miami, who has been missing an MLS franchise since 2001 after MLS ripped the Fusion and the Tampa Bay Munity from the league, has always been in talks of possibly being awarded another franchise to take its place, and with the arrival of Beckham in Miami this past week talks are at an all-time high.

In fact, Cluade himself has tried to bring MLS back to Miami with a bid in 2009 with European powerhouse Barcelona, but both sides pulled out at the end and decided that Miami would no longer be a candidate to be one of the (at the time) two MLS expansion teams.

However, with all the talks about a potential MLS expansion in Miami, fans tend to forget South Florida already has a professional soccer team. Maybe you’ve heard of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers? The Strikers, who are currently part of the North American Soccer League (NASL), have a rich history of over 35 years and has been averaging 4,500 fans per game as a second division team.

Before MLS was even thought of, the NASL was the number one league in the United States. Teams like the New York Cosmos draw over 40,000 fans per game with greats such as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and Carlos Alberto on the pitch.

The NASL folded in 1984 in the midst of financial difficulties as other teams tried to sign big name stars to compete with the Cosmos, and lost significant amounts of money in doing so. However, in 2009, a re-branded NASL was formed and in 2011 received Division 2 sanctioning by the United States Soccer Federation.

From 1977 to 1997, the Strikers have been around in many forms, and its brand is not only recognized around South Florida but also around the United States.

However, despite already having a professional team to support, Miami fans want MLS so bad that they refuse to support the current local team. This rift has now become a battle between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Let me be very clear, I’m not anti-MLS Miami I’m simply trying to give another opinion in this heated debate. I think that this fight going on between Miami and Fort Lauderdale folks is a joke, and personally downright childish.

When the Miami Herald broke the news that Beckham would be at the American Airlines Arena, a group called “MLS Miami Bid” took to social media to organize a rally outside the American Airlines Arena, right before game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, to show Beckham they were “serious” about MLS in Miami.

While the rally plans were going on, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers hosted FC Dallas from MLS at Lockhart Stadium in the third round of the US Open Cup and many of the people who are lobbying for MLS in Miami were not at an actual soccer match. Instead, they went ahead with their “rally” at the American Airlines Arena two days later, and after three hours of standing there, they decided to pack their bags and call it a night.

What did that do exactly? I’m still trying to understand… Wouldn’t it have been better if all those people put their efforts and came to the US Open Cup match? What’s better than showing Beckham, or anyone for that matter, that you are serious about soccer in South Florida than by actually attending a soccer match?

I think the problem here is Miami people refusing to associate themselves with Fort Lauderdale people, which is plain ignorant. The two cities are less than 30 minutes apart and these “Miami Supporters” refuse to come to Fort Lauderdale for a game. But, if you won’t support your local professional South Florida team now, what makes you think MLS would ever want to come back?

Look, I’m sorry to burst your “soccer-in-Miami” bubble but Miami has proven that soccer won’t work there.

Miami FC, a soccer team from 2006-2010, had horrible attendance. In the five years the club was around, they only drew an average of 1,401 fans per game. Even when the club had players like Romario and Zinho playing, they barely broke an average attendance of 2,000.

In 2007 the club’s attendance was so bad that it’s rather laughable. The team drew an average of 916 fans per game… Yes, you read that right, nine hundred sixteen.

Traffic Sports, the ownership group behind Miami FC, realized the “Miami experiment” wasn’t working, and re-branded the team as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

The re-branding was a complete success, 3,692 fans have come out to watch the re-branded Fort Lauderdale Strikers since 2011.

When David Beckham started talking about the idea of a team in South Florida, I wonder why he didn’t think about purchasing the Strikers. Moving Fort Lauderdale to MLS would be the way to go, as you clearly see from, not only the attendance numbers, but with the rich history that the franchise brings. “When the team was re-branded as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers attendance nearly tripled,” says Kartik Krishnaiyer in his EPL Talk column. “Many fans came out of the woodwork embracing a legacy they had fallen in love with or grown up with.”

Hasn’t Miami proven that soccer will never work there? Heck, even when the Miami Fusion were alive the team played in Fort Lauderdale, not in Miami. What makes the MLS to Miami movement of 2013 any different from the one in 2009, and 2001?

Miami is a city of bandwagon fans (like it or not). They will come and support the team when they are winning, but when they are losing they don’t want anything to do with the team. After the honeymoon first season ends, what will happen to this new MLS franchise in Miami? Look, football is a lot bigger than soccer in the United States and if the Miami Dolphins, a storied football franchise, can’t sell out or draw fans to their games what makes you think a MLS team will?

What proof is out there that states MLS in Miami will work now? Haven’t the many failed soccer teams in MIAMI not been enough? Do you want another failure?

If you want to support a professional team go to Lockhart Stadium. The Strikers are a professional soccer team, with talented players, and a great front office. Local soccer fans should support what they have, and not keep wishing upon an MLS star to bring them a franchise.

Even if Miami is awarded a franchise, what history will that team have compared to the storied 30+ year history of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers?

Bottom line is, I would love to have MLS not only in Miami but in South Florida. The tri-county area deserves an MLS franchise, we all agree on that. However, I don’t agree with just throwing the professional team we do have to the curb and just wishing for a new one.

 

Pedro Heizer

The founder, editor and publisher of 90 Minutes Stong, Pedro is credentialed member of U.S. Soccer, Orlando City Soccer Club, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and others, as well as a member of the North American Soccer Reporters.

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2 Responsesto “Local Soccer Fans Should Support What They Have, Not Wish Upon an MLS Star”

  1. F19 says:

    AMEN!!!!

    It’s ludicrous to see people willing to toss the Fort Lauderdale Strikers – and all their rich history – aside. And for what? To get a decent league back that spit on South Florida in the past?

    Those who’ve supported the Strikers since they were reborn in 2011 have put the effort, time, money and emotion in. They’ve done their job. Now it appears a couple of whiners on the internet, who abandoned their team when they rebranded, will get their way. It’s a shame.

    STRIKERS TIL I DIE!

  2. I completely agree with this article.

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