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FCB Miami: South Florida Soccer Fans Dreams Are Dashed

barca FCB Miami: South Florida Soccer Fans Dreams Are Dashed

Today’s announcement by Major League Soccer that Miami will not be one of the expansion teams was yet another kick in the teeth for soccer aficionados in South Florida.

Consider the following facts:

  1. When Dolphin Stadium (then called Joe Robbie Stadium) was opened in 1987, it was purposefully designed with a wider than usual playing surface to accommodate soccer. It seemed a certainty that Miami would be one of the cities to host the 1994 World Cup. Instead, Orlando was selected and the matches were played at the woefully inadequate Citrus Bowl.
  2. Despite having the best record in MLS during the 2001 season, being one game away from the MLS Cup, and having its best year for attendances, the team was contracted by MLS.
  3. South Florida used to have a fairly regular schedule of friendlies involving national and club teams, but that has dissipated to a trickle of teams that play in the region. National and club teams such as Brazil, USA, Argentina, Germany, Colombia, Bayern Munich, Rangers and Mexico used to play in South Florida. Now, if we’re lucky, we get to see a handful of friendlies each year featuring B-level national teams such as Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and Chile.

Critics would argue that soccer has been given plenty of chances to succeed in South Florida, but I disagree. Soccer has been poorly marketed in the region time after time. And the moment when it seemed that an organization had finally put together a sound plan (i.e. Marcelo Claure and Barcelona), the rug was pulled out from under us due to the dire economic mess the world is in.

I hate to be a pessimist, but it’s unlikely that a Major League Soccer team will return to South Florida during my lifetime. The story of the Fusion and the failed attempt by Barcelona will deter businessmen from trying to bring a team to South Florida in the future. For many, it may be too big of a risk to take especially given the current economic meltdown.

Living in South Florida, I find it ridiculous that the nearest MLS team to me is exactly 1,000 miles away — DC United. That’s the same distance from London to Naples, Italy. And just imagine how many professional clubs can be found between those two cities. Let’s hope I’m wrong and that a MLS team will eventually return to this soccer hotbed. We deserve it down here.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

7 Responses to FCB Miami: South Florida Soccer Fans Dreams Are Dashed

  1. Lars says:

    While I’m a fan of MLS expansion, I just can’t see any MLS team succeeding in this market just like I can’t see anything other than NFL or NCAA Football succeeding in this market. The fact is the majority of Floridians couldn’t give a damn about sports. This isn’t to impunge on the honour of diehards like Kartik and present company, but the fact is that these teams routinely do poor in attendance. Marlins, and Panthers are two great examples. If you look at St. Petersburg with its misnamed Tampa Bay teams perform equally bad.

    Miami should get a franchise, but it needs to wait until the league has raised in stature in other markets, because quite frankly if nobody else gives a damn most Floridians won’t either.

  2. The Gaffer says:

    Lars, the Miami market can be fickle. It expects a lot of its sports teams. When the Marlins and Panthers were successful, the stadiums were packed. When their performances waned, the crowds dropped. The same thing happened with the Fusion. When they had their first successful season (sadly, it was to be their last one), the crowds were rising rapidly and would have continued increasing the following season thanks to the team that Ray built.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  3. John says:

    I wonder how much Barcelona being Nike and the MLS being Adidas effected this deal.

  4. Ian says:

    John, I’m told it had at the very least a moderate affect. I’d like Kartik’s take on this. Barca was not comfortable wearing Adidas kits.

  5. Derek says:

    Was Adidas the deal breaker? Maybe but I think not having “total control” of the club hurt like the limit on players and so forth. If they did come into the league it should have been as a totally different team. No Barca kits or colors but unique to the area. Everyone would know that Barca was behind it so it would still be a draw. Being a Barca C team is OK until they pulls out and then the team would fold or it would have to change their name and kits not a good situation.

  6. jcpillars says:

    The problem with the Fusion, and I had season tickets and went to the games all the time, was not that people don’t like soccer here, or hurting economically. There is one reason only.

    There is no stadium. Lockheart stadium was a retrofitted high-school stadium with an unpaved parking lot. The Orange Bowl is falling down with no parking, you have to run through the ghetto and hope the other guy gets robbed.

    The recession economy would help MLS because it’s good cheap entertainment. There are more soccer fans here than a number of other MLS markets.

    If you make it safe and easy to get to the games in a decent stadium, do minimal marketing, and price the tickets correctly, and those games will be filled.

    The problem is the stadium. Always has been, always will be.

    • Lowell says:

      I can agree with you, but only so far. The stadium doesnt matter nearly as much as the quality of player on the pitch.

      Now living in Atlanta, I had no problems purchasing $50 tickets to see Club America (a team I know zero about.) However, I knew there was quality before my eyes… even in a dome. I took my 2 year old son and his ticket was $50 as well. Sure he could have sat on my lap and I could have lied, but the price of admission was worth what I saw perform.

      The NCRC, Home Depot Center, or whatever the heck the stadium is that the Panthers play in gets concerts all the time. Average concert ticket these days (without binoculars) is in the $60-70 dollar range. If soccer was made affordable… at least comparable to the quality of player on the field, then there would be no problem. Good teams with actual stars (not wash-out like Beckham) would garner a higher price, while low-end clubs (sorry Juan Pablo RBNY) would have lower prices and promote attendance.

      It might sound nice in theory, but you and I know this scheme wouldnt work with money-hungry owners.

      Take a look at College Football ticket prices. Depending on the opponent (conference/non conference) prices per seat vary. Why not the same approach for the MLS? I’d give $6 to see RBNY, and pay $26 to see LAG.

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