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Help Bring Major League Soccer Back to South Florida

don garber Help Bring Major League Soccer Back to South Florida

For those of you who’ll be in South Florida this weekend, I’d like to invite you to an important meeting with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber.

The meeting begins at 1pm Saturday, January 8th in Fort Lauderdale. Commissioner Garber will be there to meet with Miami Ultras and soccer fans who are interested in bringing a MLS team back to South Florida.

As much as EPL Talk sneers at Major League Soccer from time to time, we support a domestic league and would love to see more teams sprout up across the United States. Being able to continue watching Premier League matches on television and then take my family to see a real, live game in our area would be a dream come true. South Florida deserves a MLS team. We have an incredible population of soccer aficionados. But we need to make sure our voice is heard and the first step is by showing Don Garber tomorrow that we care and we desperately want a team down here.

I realize this is an English Premier League blog and the vast majority of readers are not from South Florida, but this is a topic I strongly believe in. For more input regarding my views, read my story on our sister site MLS Talk.

The meeting with Garber will be held at 3030 Restaurant at Marriot Harbour Beach Hotel, 3030 Holiday Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316. Please try to arrive there before 1pm.

I hope to see you there!

This entry was posted in Leagues: EPL, MLS. Bookmark the permalink.

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 →

50 Responses to Help Bring Major League Soccer Back to South Florida

  1. LFC Fan says:

    I would love to see a team in the Charlotte area.

  2. The fact that there’s no team south of Washington, east of the Mississippi River makes the league look minor league.

    Major leagues need major cities…the Southeast has at least two.

  3. Footballfool says:

    Wish I could make it down from St.Pete however I work this Saturday. Of course if Tampa couldn’t get the MLS back then I’d LOVE to see Miami get a team back. How serious are the considerations for Miami and where would they play?

    I also just learned that FC Tampa Bay may move to Al Lang Field. Former home to Spring Training baseball. I work for the Rays’ grounds crew part time and would LOVE to see the park re-open & possibly get a part time gig there. Not to mention that it’s about 14 minutes from where I live and 3 minutes from where I work.

    • The Gaffer says:

      FF, it’s early days right now. Garber wants to meet with soccer fans in Miami for a chat. Still a long way to go, but at least it’s a positive step.

      Fingers crossed the Rowdies will move to a new stadium!

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  4. David says:

    My two cents as a Miami resident.
    It is very hard, if not impossible for a soccer team to remain viable in the south florida market.
    The Dolphins, Marlins and Heat (pre-LeBron) have had attendance problems for most of the decade. Quite simply, people here are front runners, not “fans”. They support the team in vouge, and vanish once the team struggles (think to the post champions Heat, playing to an empty home arena).
    The second reason is most people who watch soccer are transplants (mainly from latin america and europe) with a connection to their teams and an appreciation for the game. This is why you have bars full for clasicos (Boca-River, Argentina-Brasil, Real Madrid-Barca), yet no discernable interest for MLS, which most people consider subpar to established leagues.
    I hope Miami gets a team, if for no other reason to develop players. South Florida is filled with great athletes (just think of all the NFL players from the University of Miami), who could become great soccer players with the correct guidance. If a team in Miami leads to the development of one great, south floridian player, I am all for it.

  5. John says:

    I’ll type this slowly so everybody will be able to understand. Soccer will never make it in south florida. They’ve tried it before. Disaster. They’ll try it again. Disaster. People will not come out. Just throwing good money after bad.

    • The Gaffer says:

      John, with that attitude, I agree that soccer will not succeed down here. We need more positive thinkers who know how to market the sport to a population of 5 million people. South Florida had most of the highest TV ratings for the World Cup in the entire USA, but there is no MLS team down here. It can work with the right people in charge and with a lot of hard work.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • R2Dad says:

        ‘fraid attitude isn’t enough to pay the bills and develop a rivalry. The MLS cannot afford to see teams fail, and a Florida team playing during the summer spells failure. Maybe putting teams in Atlanta, Orlando and Miami is a good idea in another 10 years. The intelligent strategy is developing regional rivalries (portland/seattle/vancouver, houston/dallas) because as all derby fans know, nothing puts butts in the seats like a heart-warming hatred for your neighbors.

        • The Gaffer says:

          R2Dad, I disagree. Derbies aren’t a guarantee of success. There’s been talk about Chivas moving away from the Home Depot Center to a different city.

          Why should we have to wait 10 years? There’s no MLS team in the entire Southeastern United States, which is absurd. If we wait for a derby to be created so a team can exist in MLS here, it’ll never happen, sorry.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Uncle Ed says:

            With the right investor it will work. The Fusion was doing well its last year in the league but the owner failed. It was not the fans.
            Give us a good product and people will come.

    • Red Card says:

      Your right John. I hear you loud and clear.

  6. Footballfool says:

    I understand about the attendance factors “post champions Heat” & actually Marlins Championship years. But times do change. I don’t believe that the area should stop trying .

    Tampa/St.Pete/Clearwater have a similar problem. There is so much to do in the area (including a 90 minute ride to Disney) that the dollar does not stretch as far these days.

    I suppose that something like a barnstorming team might work. Florida Fusion. 4 games in Miami, 4 in Tampa, 4 in Orlando or Jacksonville & 3 in Puerto Rico? Or something to the likes. Just one of many ideas to TRY to make it work.

    • The Gaffer says:

      A team needs an identity and a home that locals can rally around. I don’t see a Florida Fusion team hopping from city to city working.

      I don’t believe we have to go to that extent. A quality product with a well-run front office is necessary to make it work. It is possible.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  7. Footballfool says:

    It is interesting as to why there is no team in the entire Southeast.

  8. trickybrkn says:

    Florida already had two team in MLS, Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Both folded. Beyond lack of solid support like that found in recent additions in Philadelphia, Toronto and Seattle, the heat is a major issue. Florida humidity in the summer is like breathing in hot steam from a kettle. The only way Florida ever gets another team is if the MLS switch to the fall to spring season.

    Montreal, then Detroit ( with suburbs of Windsor Canada so close) and a real New York team, in the actual city (possibly called the Cosmos), are the next additions. Vancouver and Portland join this year.

    That’s 5 cities before any Florida city gets a shot.

    so its Miami FC till then…

    • The Gaffer says:

      Trickbrkn, sorry mate but I’m not going to give up that easy. Yes, the Fusion’s attendances were poor but during the last season they increased by 50% and weren’t worse in the league (Kansas City and San Jose had worse attendances). The heat is a factor but it’s not a deal killer.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • trickybrkn says:

        Gaffer, I know Philadelphia got a team when the Sons of Ben went after MLS, and demonstrated that there was a core fanbase ( being the 4th largest TV market didn’t hurt) and then a soccer only stadium built in Chester, PA.

        So what you are doing is a great step don’t get me wrong, but its gotta be bigger, a movement, a ground swell. and you need a money team to build a soccer only stadium… Miami is what the 16th TV market… Tampa the 13th. Its clear there are the numbers, you now need the passion.

        play up/

        • The Gaffer says:

          Trickybrkn, we already have a soccer-specific stadium. In fact it was built before the “first” MLS soccer-specific stadium. It’s Lockhart Stadium which was renovated into a stadium for MLS in 1998. Since then they’ve played other sports on it but, with work, it could easily be renovated and ready for a MLS team again.

          I agree with you about the ground swell. Tomorrow will be the first step. Hopefully it’ll grow from there.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

    • Jay says:

      “Florida humidity in the summer is like breathing in hot steam from a kettle. The only way Florida ever gets another team is if the MLS switch to the fall to spring season.”

      You clearly haven’t spent much time in either Houston (which is just as bad as South Florida) or Dallas (which isn’t much better).

      And no offense to the “But it’s a dry heat” people, brutal heat is still brutal heat, and there are plenty of teams in the MLS that have to deal with this.

  9. jose says:

    gaffer i agree with david, im a huge mls fan first and epl second. but the problem here in miami where i live is that the latin community simply rather watch a game from either europe or south america then attend an mls game. im an immigrant but i feel american till i die and support the stars & stripes and mls but there are lot’s of the latin community that doesn’t feel the way i do and so they rather support other national teams and leagues then there adopted country. that’s pretty much it.

  10. King Eric says:

    EPL talk, not mls talk. MLS is so disappointing I don’t even know where to begin.

    • trickybrkn says:

      Look, it is what it is… Sometimes I prefer League 1 matches in England over PL matches. MLS is the same way. It can be bad, but I really enjoyed watching Philadelphia Union this year. Solid play, bad refs, real support.

      Its not a top league, but its not that bad.

      • warren says:

        It is bad when comparing to EPL as we’re bound to on a site that’s all about he EPL! Apart from this article of course.

  11. JMartin says:

    South Florida is not willing/able to support a soccer team. The league should focus on adding a one or two more teams in cities that actually want a soccer team. San Diego, St. Louis and Phoenix are more viable and more deserving options.

  12. Jay says:

    As others have said, South Florida is a horrible market for most teams. The fans are just not known for support. See the problems of the Marlins, the Heat, Dolphins, and Panthers.

    That, in it self is another issue. There are already four professional franchises there.

    I would love to have an MLS team in the southeast, I just don’t think South Florida is the place for it to succeed.

    Bring the team to Orlando. For a couple of reasons (not just because I am here): 1. Only one other Pro Franchise (Magic), which plays during the winter. 2. Available field space in the Citrus Bowl. 3. Central location in the state 4. Tons of tourists drawn by Disney may elect to take in an MLS game when here.

    Even then, I think it is a hard sell, but I do think Central Florida makes more sense.

    • RedRover says:

      “Bring the team to Orlando. For a couple of reasons (not just because I am here)”

      And that right there is why your reason is full of fail. Self absorbed interest. That and the rest of your excuses. South Florida and Tampa Bay are better suited for MLS, from a Florida perspective, than Orlando could.

      • Footballfool says:

        Orlando is a better option than Tampa is. And I live in the Tampa Bay area. Would love for Tampa to get a team back but it’ll never happen. Rays & Bucs can’t draw. Lightning don’t draw when they slump. Not to mention that soccer is just not that big here.

      • Jay says:

        I beg to differ.

        I think growing a successful MLS team anywhere in Florida will be difficult. However, my reasons have nothing to do with my residency. Put the team in Orlando, I will buy season tickets. Put it in Miami, or Tampa, I will still support it (just not as frequently).

        Why do you think South Florida is the Answer? Because you live there? Look at it objectively. South Florida sports fans are notoriously fickle. And, given the presence of the Marlins, you have competition for attendance that does not exist in Central Florida.

        • The Gaffer says:

          Jay, the Marlins aren’t an issue. Baseball is a dying sport in this country. South Florida deserves a MLS team because there are a huge amount of soccer fans down here, it’s one of the top TV markets in the country and it’s a better location than Orlando and Tampa who both have no adequate stadiums.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Tim says:

            Gaffer, there are a huge amount of soccer fans in NYC and Chicago, why don’t the Red Bulls or Fire sell out every match?

        • RedRover says:

          No I don’t live anywhere’s close to South Florida. And that makes me more objective than you, buddy.

          If I had a dollar for everytime someone says their city/region can support an MLS team, I’d have enough money to buy an MLS team for my city/region.

  13. Uncle Ed says:

    Where did all the bashers come from? Some claim to be local, I bet if you look them up they live in Tampa.
    The truth is we will get a team one way or another. This is too big of a market to be left out. Tons of sponsors to be had. This town is one of the few that next to L.A. and NY will attract star players and that is what South Florida fans want. We want a quality team.
    The Ft Lauderdale Strikers were successful and the Miami Fusion was on its way to getting there before the owner pulled out.
    Tomorrow at the meeting you will see that Garber wants a team here. We have an investor, he isn’t wasting his time for nothing.

  14. The Gaffer says:

    Whether it’s Tampa, Miami or Orlando, the fact is that Florida needs a MLS team. It’s ridiculous that the state with the fourth highest population in the United States has no team.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  15. Brian Hough says:

    I’d love to see it happen, but MLS need to get ownership that understand the area and culture in Florida. One of the things cited why MLS has failed in the past is their inability to connect with the Hispanic audience. If they can find that audience and get their butts in the seats, you could have a soccer hotbed. Considering they have failed twice I am hopeful, but very skeptical.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Brian, I believe that was part of the problem with the Fusion in the first place. They marketed the team at a Hispanic demographic and most of them didn’t show up in droves. Rather than singling out the Hispanic audience, my recommendation would be for MLS to focus instead on all of the different ethnicities from the caucasians, Haitians, Brazilians, the Caribbean community and so on.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • RedRover says:

        In that case, South Florida’s best hope for a team like in Fort Lauderdale, with the team bringing back the old NASL name Strikers.

  16. SeminoleGunner says:

    It would be nice to see a team in Florida, but I really can’t blame the MLS for not taking on the challenge right now.

    The Florida sports culture is unique (really Florida culture period is unique). Many people are originally from other states/countries and have little tie to their adopted hometowns. On top of that, pro sports are still a relatively new thing for Floridians and they have yet to become truly ingrained in the community the way they are in the Northeast or some towns in the Midwest.

    The oldest team in Florida is the Miami Dolphins and they are probably the one that is on most solid footing when it comes to fan support, so I think in time we will build a respectable sports culture. In the meantime it is a struggle. The Jacksonville Jaguars are forever on the edge of failure it seems, and they are selling American football (albeit in a smaller market).

    When you pair the quirks of Florida sports with the obvious challenge of selling soccer in the United States, I can see why the MLS looks elsewhere. Best of luck with the outreach effort though. A Miami club would still be around 500 miles from my home in North Florida, but I would definitely support them.

  17. Red Card says:

    I understand your hop and dream of a team your can call your own. But it can’t happen in Miami your best bet is Tampa they already have a team and second highest attendance in the NASL behind Montreal next year.

  18. IanCransonsKnees says:

    I know it’s not MLS but it’s a start. Surely if support for this team shows up an holds up then that could be a big plus point in the argument for a MLS franchise.

    http://www.insidemnsoccer.com/2010/10/25/usl-announces-orlando-city-soccer-club-as-new-usl-pro-team/

    http://orlandocitysoccer.com/

    Interesting to note that there’s some big money behind this from over here.

  19. Footballfool says:

    How’d it go today?

    • The Gaffer says:

      FF, it well pretty well. More than 60 people turned out, and Garber spoke for more than an hour. However, I have some concerns which I’ll share in a future MLS Talk post (probably tomorrow).

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  20. Tim says:

    Florida needs to pull a Portland/Philly/Vancouver. There needs to be an army of fans at every Orland SC, Miami FC or Tampa FC match to show MLS that one of those cities truly wants a club. Even though I may dismiss Florida’s chances, it’s purely on what I have seen in the sports scene. I was at a Marlins opening day game, bought tix at the door and the place was lucky to be half full even with the tarps out. The Heat and Dolphins games on TV have empty seats same with the Rays and Bucs.

    Do I want a MLS team in Florida? yes, but is it likely to come to fruition? no.

  21. The Gaffer says:

    My article about yesterday’s meeting is now published on our sister site MLS Talk at http://www.majorleaguesoccertalk.com/don-garber-advises-south-florida-to-change-its-soccer-reputation/11348

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

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