We’ve spent alot of time on this site discussing MLS expansion and why Portland and St Louis are more natural fits for MLS (not soccer/football specifically but MLS which is after all an inferior product to European football). However in uncertain economic times where Jeff Cooper’s group isn’t assured of getting a stadium built in St Louis, Portland needs a major overhaul of PGE Park and bids in Vancouver and Atlanta also are probably going to be affected by the financial situation, Miami stands alone as a sure bet to get off the ground.
With a stadium already built and being used at Florida International University in addition to the financial backing of both Barcelona and Marcelo Claure makes Miami a clear leader in the expansion race. I have previously stated my preference for a new Miami team to play at the home of the NASL Fort Lauderdale Strikers or MLS Miami Fusion: Lockhart Stadium. I do believe the FIU location combined with the use of field turf is a significant drawback for the new club.
The core of American Soccer supporting audience in south Florida (note I did not say European/Latin Football supporting audience) is skewed towards the northern part of the metropolitan area: Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Youth Soccer tends to be strongest in Wellington, Boca Raton and Coral Springs rather than in Miami-Dade County. This can be clearly evidenced by the current professionals such as Jozy Altidore, Cory Gibbs, and Tyrone Marshall among others who have played youth soccer in Palm Beach or Broward counties. Miami-Dade County tends to be more supportive of international football than domestic football: that’s why the Miami Torros/Gatos flopped and moved to Fort Lauderdale where they were successful for a number of years. That’s why Miami’s clubs in the old APSL and ASL failed much more quickly than the teams in Fort Lauderdale.
But with Barca Miami having committed to playing in Miami-Dade County, concerns about the bid must be articulated. At the same time, in these economic times no other bid adds up to Miami’s. While other cities will be in my opinion preferable markets for MLS, the league’s race to expand despite the financial crisis probably means Miami should be and very well may be a lock for a new team. Now the challenge will be to make sure the new team is more successful initially than were the Fusion and can somehow pick up where the Fusion left off in its last glorious season in MLS.