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South Florida Soccer Fans Send Clear Message to MLS: We’re Ready

6006718013 247c78a882 South Florida Soccer Fans Send Clear Message to MLS: Were Ready

Photo by magzalez

In January, MLS Commissioner Don Garber met with soccer fans in South Florida in a public forum where he shared his valid concerns about the market:

“Miami needs to change its reputation as a market that believes in professional soccer,” said Garber. “I’m telling you as a guy who’s sitting in New York and promoting soccer matches, we worry about this market. This is a risky market for international soccer. There is no reason why it should be.”

During the hour long meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Garber challenged South Florida to make significant improvements. Those included increasing attendances at Fort Lauderdale Strikers games to 3,000-4,000 per game, as well as filling the stadium at the Gold Cup games.

Well, South Florida has answered Garber’s call. More than 18,000 fans came out for the two Gold Cup games between Jamaica versus Guatemala and Grenada against Honduras. Meanwhile, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers are enjoying their best season ever in terms of attendance (as a Traffic club in South Florida). Their first home game had an attendance of 6,402, while the attendance for other matches has routinely been over 3,000.

And now, last night, South Florida sent a massive message to Garber and the rest of the United States by setting a record for the largest attended soccer game in Florida history after 70,080 filled Sun Life Stadium for the World Football Challenge game between Barcelona and Chivas De Guadalajara.

In January, Garber told South Florida soccer fans that they needed to do more work to convince MLS and investors that South Florida was a viable market. South Florida have responded. We’re ready.

No one says it’ll be easy. But it’s obvious that there’s a massive appetite in South Florida to see quality soccer in-person. It’s a market that would require a strong management and marketing team to make it a success, but that success is completely possible. And if done well, it could be massive.

Right now, the nearest first division professional soccer team to South Florida is Atlante in Mexico (574 miles away, as the crow flies). Major League Soccer’s closest team is DC United, more than 1,000 miles from Miami. Whether it’s Miami, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Charlotte or elsewhere, it’s a travesty that MLS is non-existent in the Southeastern United States. If MLS wants to consider itself a major soccer league, it needs to build a presence in a corner of the country where MLS is invisible.

Based on the rising attendances in Miami, Tampa and Orlando – just to name three cities in the Southeast – MLS has a lot to choose from.

This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, Uncategorized. 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 →

86 Responses to South Florida Soccer Fans Send Clear Message to MLS: We’re Ready

  1. speculum fight says:

    I don’t think you can gauge MLS interest by what Barca vs a Mexican team draws. Look at the attendance New England had VS Man U, where are those fans during the MLS season?

    • Gregory says:

      Yes MLS in Orlando will be great I’m for N.J I go to red bulls games with my son we have great time we are moving to Florida next year will be nice to soup port our state in soccer and have fun in beautiful Florida thanks a fan

  2. Charles says:

    I want a team in Florida, but……..
    speculum fight, I could NOT agree more. Having casual fans show up for one game means absolutely nothing. It does NOT mean fans will show up for a team that is NOT the best in the world…front running casual fans are either “too good” for MLS or don’t go to soccer games, but it is Barca.

    The true gage is if an investor steps up. The market will determine if Florida is ready.

    I don’t mean to bash on your personally Gaffer, but bloggers claiming MLS needs them to be a real league tells you nothing. They are risking nothing, absolutely nothing.
    If the league folds, they can follow the Mexican league on Galavision.

    Having an investor step up and commit/risk HUGE money means the area is ready. He ( or she ) is convinced enough the market is ready to risk that much money, THAT tells you something.

    • Dave C says:

      Gotta agree on Charles on this one. While I do think it is detrimental to American soccer that MLS teams are so few and far between in such a large country, I don’t think any one area can tell the MLS “hey you NEED us to be in your league”.

      It’s individual investors that you need to persuade.

  3. C3S@R says:

    The only reason the stadium was sold out is because Barcelona played against an MLS team. If Chivas played against any other team, the numbers wouldn’t be as high. These fans do not come out to support their local club. They are international elitist fans. The South Florida market has a lot of work to show Garber they are ready for MLS. Take a look at how Seattle did it. They supported their local team and made a push for MLS. The whole city embraced that team prior to being promoted to the major league. These international friendlies will always draw big crowds. They don’t play here on a regular basis.

    • Dave C says:

      I thought the article said Barca played against Chivas Guadalajara, not an MLS team (i.e. not Chivas USA).

    • Robert says:

      THEY PLAYED CHIVAS GUADALAJARA !

    • Kejsare says:

      You’re slightly mistaken, Seattle’s supporters had nothing to do with getting MLS, but Philly’s did! Something about Roth getting billionaire Paul Allen to buy a a smart ownership in the Sounders, then Allen would open up CLink to allow Roth to bring a team there.

      There was NO supporter’s push. But Philly had one, Portland had one, and to some extent so did Vancouver.

      There was a major investor involved [Allen] that pushed Seattle to the front.

      • Charles says:

        Kejsare
        Seattle has MLS because of two reasons.

        One, MLS was pushing for Seattle for Day One of MLS….BECAUSE of Seattle fans. 100%. They have always drawn great, second best of NASL most of the time.
        Oki didn’t like the Single Entity structure and joined ALeague/USL instead. Now he spends his days as a moron posting MLS Hater troll posts in his spare time.
        Maybe they didn’t have organized people pushing MLS, but MLS always wanted their money.

        Two, Adrian Hanauer jumped on it when the brother of AEG management was hired to the Seahawks. Adrian is a VERY bright guy, hard working and he has been pushing Gold Cups etc, for a long time since he bought the Sounders from Oki.

  4. Robert says:

    This MLS system is ridiculous. Pay to play hahaha.

  5. dj voter says:

    South Florida Soccer Fans Send Clear Message to Barcelona: We’re Ready

  6. F19 says:

    I’ll have to echo the sentiments of the other posters. I was at the game, it was a fabulous match(especially from Chivas), and it was great for South Florida to break the record for soccer attendance in Florida. But it was Barça-Chivas, two of the biggest clubs in the world. Pretty much any city in the US with a stadium that size could have filled it up. Most of the people there were bandwagon FCB “fans”, probably 75% of which don’t even know what Catalonia is.

    70,000+ for last night’s match was great, but the more important number for MLS is the Fort Lauderdale Strikers attendance. They are averaging over 4,000 fans per game so far this season, more than 3 times what they pulled in as Miami FC over the last 5 years(both in Miami and Fort Lauderdale). And that’s better than what the USL Seattle Sounders averaged over their existence(3,360 from 94-08).

    For what is now the 3rd time, Fort Lauderdale has proven it will support domestic pro soccer, at any level, so long as you do not insult the local fanbase by ignoring the soccer tradition and history already present in the city, which is what MLS did the first time with the “Miami” Fusion debacle. The solid ticket sales for the Strikers are what MLS wants to see, consistent support of the LOCAL team. A mediocre team in a lower division with little to no star power to boot. The new Strikers and FCTB “Rowdies” have had some crowds in D2 that eclipsed some of the low Fusion/Mutiny turnouts from back in the day. Just ask the fans in the Pacific Northwest, tradition is very very important.

    • g says:

      great reply, i go to strikers games but i was also at this, and it was very cool to see a fair amount of folks in strikers shirts (my mother included, haha). that, to me, was a better indication that we locals are inclined to support our team instead of a one-off with arguably the biggest club in the world.

    • PC2 says:

      I disagree. I was at both the ManUnited/Barca & Barca/Chivas games, and I think that the Miami crowd was far more knowledgeable and full of legitimate fans than the DC crowd was. Barca or Chivas might not have been their “first” team, but they clearly followed the leagues, knew which players to look for, were interested in seeing the youth players, etc. The DC crowd seemed full of people who just picked a team to have a cool shirt to wear to the game (except for a great group of organized MUFC supporters who obviously knew what was up). Obviously, in either case you’re talking about over 70K people, so there were all kinds, this was just my observation. Either way, I agree that this has nothing to do with whether MLS would be successful here.

      The bigger problem is the “South Florida” issue. the Fusion didn’t fail bc they were marketed as a Miami team, but because they were marked as a Miami team yet played in Ft. Lauderdale. This doesn’t work. As someone said when the Marlins renaming came up: Miami is a brand, South Florida is not. The teams that are more successful from a fanbase and marketing standpoint are the ones who go with Miami and embrace that culture- good or bad. The teams that try to have it both ways don’t really catch on with anyone (do the Panthers still exist?). Miami fans will flat out not flock to Broward for anything. Broward fans will bitch about having to go to Miami. Any owner would have to pick Miami or Ft.L to market to, and it will be a different kind of team depending on which they choose.

      Interested in seeing what happens, but unfortunately not hopeful.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      If you have to put the team in Fort Lauderdale, call it the Florida whatevers. But you shouldn’t have to put the team in Fort Lauderdale. Miami has a massive Hispanic population, which is key to MLS’ current and future growth. The only problem is that they don’t have any money. Solve that problem, and Miami could prove to be Seattle all over again.

  7. Red says:

    Barcelona vs. Chivas Guadalajara says nothing.

  8. Pedro says:

    I also don’t get the connection between Chivas and Barca friendly and MLS. How much salary was running around on the field last night? Versus how much would be in an MLS game?

    MLS is fundamentally different due to it being a collection of franchises under one single entity (which is still somehow deemed legal). They have the power to keep salaries crammed low, and put in place massive disincentives to owner/investors spending extra on salaries (why else would they force a team w/ 3 DP’s to eat up a third of its salary cap, or have such non-existent financial benefits to a team for succeeding on the field).

    This means the present AND FUTURE of MLS will be as a league with paltry salaries that puts very little financial pressure on “team owners” to win. And I hate it, because MLS is the only thing we’ve got. But we can’t pretend that it’s a normal league.

    as MLS can make it (that’s why they set up the league as a single Let’s face it, the investors of MLS have set up a situation where they don’t have to really compete against each other (single entity) and can set up rules to strongly discourage any team from really trying to win by putting the best team on the field. (I mean, seriously, forcing a team to eat $1M into their $2.7M salary cap if they sign 3 DP’s? That’s only designed to actively discourage owners from paying out of pocket – some teams don’t have any DP’s. Also, lack of financial incentives to teams to perform well on field also makes it hard to justify spending extra out of pocket. What rewards does a team get for winning the league? Bupkus compared to the hard cash top finishers get in other leagues)

    Anyways, long way of saying that not just the current state of MLS but also the future of MLS will be very low salaries (probably have a cap that’s under $5M still in 10 years).

    Anyways, with the franchise model they use they will be able to keep salaries crammed down

    • Pedro says:

      My apologies, there was text I didn’t intend to include at the end there. The post should have just been the first part:

      I also don’t get the connection between Chivas and Barca friendly and MLS. How much salary was running around on the field last night? Versus how much would be in an MLS game?

      MLS is fundamentally different due to it being a collection of franchises under one single entity (which is still somehow deemed legal). They have the power to keep salaries crammed low, and put in place massive disincentives to owner/investors spending extra on salaries (why else would they force a team w/ 3 DP’s to eat up a third of its salary cap, or have such non-existent financial benefits to a team for succeeding on the field).

      This means the present AND FUTURE of MLS will be as a league with paltry salaries that puts very little financial pressure on “team owners” to win. And I hate it, because MLS is the only thing we’ve got. But we can’t pretend that it’s a normal league.

    • Alex says:

      Totally agree and you’re totally right. The single entity structure and parity structure has got to go. It’s not good for the quality of the league. It’s also injust to the players. And there’s no denying where money is, quality is and where quality is, fans show up to watch. But as time goes by the validity and need for single entity and parity goes away. First off a single entity consitutes as a whole company going after a single goal. As mls expands so does the diversity of owners. And owners are in mls to make money so they each do their own thing under the mls flag to gain a edge (transfers, dp, trades) to not only win but also make more money. But at the same time they all enter into agreement to supress player salaries as much as possible and all other parity rules. This is unjust and makes mls a monopoly (also throw in the fact they cherry pick clubs from lower divisions) . If mls players don’t get free agency come next cba, I promise they’ll bring up antitrust laws.

      We did need these training wheels for the first years but mls can no longer hold to the arguement that mls is still weak and don’t want owners to run amok in spending.

      It’s true some casual fans label mls as mediocre and suckish out of ignorance but whether you look at the facts or your a “eurosnob” they are right. We fans are subject to regulated, simulated mediocre soccer so owners can get the better edge on players and fans. And as for drafts and trades, I thought we outlawed slavery?

      • Charles says:

        Players who can cause a team to exceed its maximum allowed salary cap, but only a portion of their salary counts to the cap.

        Each team is now allowed 3.

        Designated Players.

        Simple explaination, if someones wants to be more exact…feel free.

    • Gazza says:

      @Pedro

      “Probably have a salary cap of under $5m in 10 years?” Then how is it 3 clubs in 2011 spend more than $5M? Could it be that MLS doesn’t have a cap at all?

      As for being a Single Entity there are thousands of business in the US that are SE and yes they are also legal.

  9. Christopher says:

    I’m not hating on the state of Florida having a MLS team. But surely a sellout for a game between the most popular club in the world in Barcelona, and one of the two most popular in Mexico, in Chivas, is not a barometer of how MLS would do. The article referencing 18,000 for a two games that featured Jamaica and Guatemala and Grenada and Honduras really isn’t all that impressive. If not for three of those countries in that two for the price on one doubleheader, who is to say more than 1,800 would have shown up?

    As a old school NASL fan I would like to return to a day of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, but the Miami-Broward area’s lackadaisical support of its pro sports teams (throw in UM football in there too) when they aren’t winning might suggest MLS wouldn’t make it there at this time.

  10. INDY says:

    Sure thing they have a lot to choose from. There is a big push in Indianapolis right now to obtain a team. The supporters group Brickyard Battalion is behind the potential Racing Indy FC, MLS team. They aren’t going to stop until they do what it takes! Just like Sons of Ben were there for Philly, the Brickers are there for Racing INDY all the way. Bring MLS to Indy!

  11. Alan says:

    I agree. Casual fans going to Chivas vs Barcelona means about as much as casual fans tuning in to see Chelsea vs Man U and then claiming that we are some just soccer nation. However, the support that is shown for FL Strikers is great, and I really hope that the support is there for magicJack too. They deserve it.

    • Alan says:

      Huge, not just. Darn autocorrect.

      • C3S@R says:

        South Florida United and the Miami Ultras went to a magicJack game to try ane provide atmosphere but it was a hard sell to the fans. They’re are seeing a rise in attendance after the Women’s World Cup but not sure how llong it will last. We’ve been suggesting to magicJack to book a double-header at Lockhart so they can accommodate all the fans but we havent heard anything from them. I guess it makes too much sense lol!

  12. drew says:

    Didn’t we try this Florida thing before? Why does no one seem to remember the collosal failures that were the Mutiny and Fusion? Why on earth would MLS choose to relive that experience?

    Instead, the MLS should take a page from the Timbers and Sounders and consider an established soccer market: Rochester, home of the Raging Rhinos!

    • Alex says:

      There was nothing wrong with Tampa and ft lauderdale. They’re attendance was good, the performance was also good. What killed both clubs was lack of proper management and poor location. You probably weren’t even around when fusion and munity played some people say things to sound smart. People assume that just cuz they got a pre mature axe they were collosal faliures. It was management fault, fans and team performance had nothing to do with it.

      • SoFla_fan says:

        Not to mention the Mutiny were owned by the league. No investor was its doom. Attendance was slightly higher than average at that time.

  13. Alex says:

    As a new yorker living in Florida I’m glad that either my hometown or my home state are in the running for the 20th club spot. I can tell you out of the three floridian cities debated to enter, Miami is probably not the best. Unless a downtown stadium is built and heavily promoted I don’t think Miami has the distance to make it. Now if mls was a high caliber league then Miami would be a top city but I don’t think so. Don’t confuse Miami as a anti soccer city they are soccer crazy. Every time I go there are always soccer fields occupied, tons of rec clubs and leagues, lots of soccer pubs and stores. The thing is they know their soccer and they won’t give mls the day of light.

    It’s a shame we work under a pay to play scheme (same goes towards player development) if we worked under a club system I’m sure we d have more passionat
    e fans. I mean we have a commish who’s worried more on developing manufactured rivalries than fixing the playoffs. Idk soccer is strange in this country

  14. Michael says:

    The Gaffer makes a rare appearance to…once again pump up South Florida as the place to gamble on yet another MLS club.

    It feels like 2008 all over again.

  15. The Gaffer says:

    Garber said that in order to give investors confidence in South Florida, we soccer fans in this region had to increase the Strikers attendances, and get a big crowd for the two Gold Cup games. We did that. And we did more by selling 70,000+ tickets to a meaningless friendly.

    Yes, it was Barcelona against Chivas. But how else are we going to prove that there’s a market for MLS in South Florida? We’ve shown there’s an appetite for soccer in this region. It’s now MLS’s turn to talk to investors and to encourage them to look at South Florida as a market — one of the biggest markets in the United States without a MLS team.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

    • Charles says:

      IF they get an investor, you will get a team. 100% guaranteed.

      My memory tells me the Strikers always drew well in NASL, I think they will have some step up.

      • DLH says:

        This is no true Charles.

        FC Barcelona was all in to put an MLS team in South Florida. It would’ve been a win-win, MLS draws one of the biggest clubs into the league, put a team in Florida, and Barca gets a presence where one of their biggest fan bases are located plus a de facto “farm team” to play young developmental players.

        Then MLS said, “oh yeah, by the way you won’t actually own your team, or even a franchise- all you own is an operating license, since we’re a single-entity. And all your young Barca players will have to be tranferred to and registered with MLS who will then will control their salaries and future transfers.”

        FC Barca laughed and walked away.

        • Charles says:

          So…..they DONT have an investor.
          I could have sworn that is what I said.
          But thanks for your unsuccessful attempt at bashing MLS.

          REPEATING MY STATEMENT:
          IF they get an investor, you will get a team. 100% guaranteed.

          My memory tells me the Strikers always drew well in NASL, I think they will have some step up.

  16. Matthew says:

    Just because two teams failed in Florida I don’t think that is reason enough to bar MLS expansion. Things change so a review of the major cities in Florida is warranted. I think Orlando would be the most creditable choice in my view. Weather and Climate would be an issue with all three cities in Florida so of course measures would have to be taken to address that concern. Orlando has a large population with over 2 million in the metro area. With only one professional sports team, the Orlando Magic this could be another added reason to locate a new professional team in the area. Tourism could be a major factor that could pull individuals to attend games in addition to the local population and could help the local economy as well. However, since I live on the west coast I would prefer a team out here, maybe San Diego, San Francesco/Oakland or Las Vegas.

    • Ian says:

      Orlando? Yeah right? How do you create a team supported entirely by people who don’t live there, as you suggest tourism will bring fans? That city will lose the Magic within 5 years and won’t ever support a soccer team.

  17. Juan says:

    great article.

    What one has to realize is that there was 70,080 with very little local coverage or publicity. In Miami, save for the occasional billboard, there was little publicity given to this match by the mainstream media in English. There was probably a little more in Spanish… but not much. This was an event driven by social media and word of mouth.

    • PC2 says:

      I agree. That stadium was filled by word of mouth and by people who follow the clubs closely enough to have read about the tour when it was announced. Local press coverage was essentially ZERO.

  18. Ian says:

    Not Tampa, Not Orlando, Not Miami, Not Atlanta (Not any place in the south)… All of these cities are horrible places filled with racists and backwards rednecks who will never love anything more than college football. The Northeast needs more teams. Inner New England rivalries will bring more fans to Rev games and have more traveling fans to create great atmosphere! I’d rather see 30,000 fans at a Revs game than some team from the south that nobody will support anyways have 3,000 people come to games. Only other city I could see expansion to is St. Louis, it’s always been a hotbed for soccer in this country. Also why teams in Canada? I thought the point of MLS was help US Soccer.

    • Matthew says:

      With all deal respect, you clearly are an idiot. That is one of the most ignorant and stereotypical statements I have heard and read in a while. So, the northeast, midwest, the or the westcoast don’t have racists or rednecks. I got news for you being a redneck or racists isn’t a regional thing, rednecks and racists are everywhere. Of course if you had any understanding of history you would know the northest and New England saw some of the nations worst acts of racism in the 1960s and 1970s. Just look at busing in Boston in the 1970s. Whether soccer would take off in the southeast is a different subject. Stupid and ill informed people like you need to think before you speak before you open your trap.

    • Abram says:

      Have you ever been to Tampa, Orlando, Miami, or Atlanta? No one, including the people who live there, truly considers the three Florida cities to culturally be Southern. The majority if people there –and to a lesser extent in Atlanta– are northerners and midwesterners who have relocated. Hell, even Birmingham, AL is not fitting into the stereotype that you believe exists. Do they love American football more than is probably healthy? Yes, but they are four hugely diverse, cosmopolitan cities with international flavor that could support an MLS team.

      And for the record, I personally hate the south. Though seriously, get educated before you stereotype an entire section of the country.

  19. Ian says:

    I taught in schools in Florida and South Carolina before moving back to the Northeast. Worst years of my life, despite wanting to make the best of the job opportunities. My source is experience. Yes Boston had some busing issues… In comparison to the Southern racial history I’ll take a few moments of troubles to a legacy of brutality that still exists in the South. My point is that soccer won’t ever exist in the south because the market won’t allow it. If it was a priority they would have stay there the first time or gone back sooner. MLS is finally stabilized, I don’t think teams in lousy markets out of some kind of obligation to fill out the map is a good idea. These are all horrible markets. I went to NBA games in Florida when the Celtics played the Magic and the Heat what horrible bandwagoning fans who seemed to have no clue of the great legacy of the Celtics.

    • g says:

      You sound irritating and like you have an ax to grind so I don’t even know why I’m replying, but if you want to continue with your view of the entire south like that, go right ahead. However, I don’t see how it’s pertinent to the idea of a team in South Florida when both Miami-Dade and Broward County are quite different than the rest of the region. “My point is that soccer won’t ever exist in the south because the market won’t allow it” Are you unable to see the picture included in the post? Were you incapable of reading the posts by locals who attest to people attending Strikers games? Or are you so obsessed with your “Miami fans are bandwagoners”/”Southerners are rednecks” line of thinking that you don’t feel like actually arguing coherently?
      “I went to NBA games in Florida when the Celtics played the Magic and the Heat what horrible bandwagoning fans who seemed to have no clue of the great legacy of the Celtics.” lol because having for respect for basketball translates to soccer attendance, I’ll be sure to inform the Revs of that.

  20. Matthew says:

    What people are taught about American history in K-12 doesn’t impress me. As you said your personal experience and you if know anything of the history of racial problems in the country you would be better informed and not making uneducated comments. Your comments reflect a typical south trashing without knowing all the facts. I am a college history professor and I teach American history and your comments prove how public schools are failing. Some busing problems in Boston they were some of the worst in the nation. The hidden racism of the nation was exposed during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s (Boston, LA, Oakland, Seattle, Portland, NY, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit, and Chicago).Have you heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which had its origins in California. I suggest you stick to making comments on soccer and live history to those who know the subject. I will leave it at that.

    • ian says:

      i’ve only got a BA in History and teach High School History, so I guess you must be right.

      • Matthew says:

        That is frightening and don’t think much of your professionalism when you say comments like that. I rest my case.

        • Dave C says:

          Ian, you sound bitter about something, like you have a chip on your shoulder…did you get fired from your teaching job down south by any chance?

  21. John says:

    Love to see MLS in Miami. It will be better than Columbus or Colorado or New England.

  22. SoFla_fan says:

    You can’t use Chivas-Barcelona as a gauge of how MLS is a viable venture in South Florida. It’s freakin’ Chivas and Barcelona! One team is the most popular Mexican team in the world, the other is one of the most popular teams in the world, period! Not getting at least 60,000 for a matchup would be embarrassing.

    I am from South Florida, lived there for the first 19 years of my life, and have followed the major sports teams passionately then and even now, 10 years after leaving. I still either watch any Marlins, Heat, Dolphins, or Panthers game available, or keep up to date on Gamecast or their websites. I am also a big MLS fan (went to some Fusion games when they were around, now root for the Galaxy as most of my family is from LA). Now, none of this qualifies me as an expert, but these aspects have given me some insight on this subject.

    Forget the historical facts about pro soccer in the US. Here are the 3 main reasons (and there are others) why an MLS franchise will not succeed in South Florida.

    1) Location of the team. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers might be doing well (attendance-wise), but part of this is because of the name. The Miami Fusion struggled because they were a Miami team that played in Fort Lauderdale. While the distance is very minimal, Miami fans have historically had a very hard time embracing a team based in Fort Lauderdale (see the Panthers… compare Panther fans in Broward County aas compared to Dade… sorry, Miami-Dade). A team would have to be in Miami, but where do you build a SSS in Miami?

    2) Fragmentation of Hispanic population. The Miami Fusion were seen as a slam dunk because of the Hispanic population. Indeed, the Fusion signed some Hispanic players to their rosters. Welton, Diego Serna, Carlos Valderrama, Alex P. Chacon, Marcelo Herrera, Saul Martinez, Paulinho, and some islanders like Tyrone Marshall. But the Hispanic population is very fragmented, so signing a high-profile DP from, say Colombia, will attract some Colombians, but do nothing for Venezualans, Guatemalans, Brazilians, etc. And the biggest segments, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans, don’t really care about soccer anyways (nor have any quality players). So basically, this strategy is moot, and the best way to attract fans is to consistently win, which is a lot easier said than done.

    3) Miami is a bunch of fairweather fans. Look, I love my area, and almost every time I go home I try to go to some sporting event. But it’s the truth. 2 years ago the Miami Heat were a 44 win team with a #5 seed in the playoffs, and had the exciting Dwayne Wade. The attendances during the season were absolutely pitiful. Many games barely broke 10,000. Make 2 high profile signings and you can’t buy a ticket for less than $1000! The Marlins have been a strong club for years, almost always challenging for a wild card birth. 2nd worst attendance in the league. The Dolphins are somewhat immune to this, but only because they’ve been around for almost 50 years and have developed a culture. Basically, Miami fans generally show up only if it is “cool” to show up, which is when a team is in the postseason. An expansion team will take several years to become truly competitive, so a Miami MLS team will probably fail before it has the chance.

    If MLS wants to enter the Southeast, I think their best bets are either Orlando or Charlotte. Tampa also has more potential than Miami, if it is done right (downtown stadium, strong marketing, signing players from the area- and there are A LOT [Dax McCarty, Zac McMath, Kyle Davies, etc)).

  23. GPA says:

    SoFla, if I were don garber, i’d make you my vp of strategy. i couldn’t agre more. the fans are bandwagoners, and like other posters said miami folk wont go to broward and broward folk wont go to miami, etc.

  24. Abram says:

    In a perfect world, where pro/rel existed, Carolina would probably have had an MLS team for some time, and Orlando would be creeping closer to that goal as well.

    • casualfan says:

      Raleigh has a very large, very diverse and international population of soccer fans. I am 100% certain that the Triangle could support an MLS team very successfully.

      • Abram says:

        Are the Railhawks closer to Raleigh or Durham? They’re based in Cary. Any idea on thir attendance? I know they pretty much dominate the division they’re in, though I’m not sure if it’s USL or NASL.

  25. F19 says:

    A few points:

    PC2 is right on the money, when it comes to South Florida, you can’t try to play to both Miami and Fort Lauderdale. You gotta pick one or the other to have any chance. Miami FC’s attendance is 3x+ better than last season this year after changing to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, playing in the same stadium. Imagine if the Fusion had the chance to rebrand while at Lockhart?

    Since we are very unlikely to have a team in each city, MLS and any future investors would need to make a choice. History has shown that Fort Lauderdale has outperformed Miami in every instance. The Gatos/Toros attendance doubled when they moved north to become the original Strikers in 77, and they had to expand Lockhart twice by 1983. The APSL Strikers outdrew the Sharks/Freedom by a wide margin in the late 80s/early 90s. And Miami FC struggled to bring in more than 1,000 people for 5 years, playing in Miami and FTL, and this year they are averaging over 4,000 fans, despite the same relatively lackluster play.

    And on the subject of South Florida being a bad sports market on the whole, please, do some research. The Dolphins had one playoff game locally blacked out a decade ago and people think we get like 35,000 or something. They still draw just fine, despite not having won anything since 1973. The Marlins have played in the worst stadium in baseball, by far, and have dismantled 2 World Championship teams in the process. The Panthers are currently riding an NHL record 10 year playoff drought, but still manage to average 13-15,000 fans every year. That’s a miracle. There are valid reasons some of our teams do not lead the league in support, not the least of which is that most are still relatively young franchises in a very transient market. It takes a long time to develop a truly solid core of fans. And the Heat have averaged 17,000+ since their first year, and 10 of those years were at the 16,000 seat Miami Arena, so I don’t know why anyone questions So Fla’s support for basketball.

    • SoFla_Fan says:

      I assume you are talking to me about doing my research. Again, having lived in the area and still going to games while I am down there, I think I have quite a bit of first hand empirical evidence. I DID mention the Dolphins are immune to this phenomenon (immune meaning it doesn’t apply to them). Yes, the Marlins play in a horrible stadium. But that horrible stadium still brings in 50,000+ for a playoff game. And I know their history (really, dismantled once. 2004 they made a run for it with Delgado, LoDuca, Mota, etc.). Even IN those years, such as 2003, we had horrible crowds. Even 1997, before we dismantled our team, and had a great lineup, we could not outdraw our inaugural season (not even close). Panthers, last I checked, average closer to 10,000 in a 17,000 arena. And yes, the Head HAVE averaged large crowds, because the Heat have had good teams (from the days of Zo, Hardaway, Brown, Majerle, etc, to Wade and O’Neal, to now). What I AM SAYING is that when the team struggled, nobody showed. when the Heat won 19 games I think it was in 2008-09, then 44 in 2009-10, AAA crowds were pitiful. Throw UM into this conversation, too, barely get 45,000 now.

      My point is that for the solid crowds people seem to be expecting from South Florida for an MLS team, that team will need to be a consistent and big winner. Of course, that isn’t always a guarantee, and I think you’ll see fickle support for this reason AND the other 2 reasons I highlighted earlier.

      Thank you.

  26. Indy says:

    I wish we lived in a perfect world. Atlanta, Miami, Carolina, and Orlando would all have teams. And of course INDIANAPOLIS! Brickyard Battalion is ready! We are fans of the beautiful game in general but especially wish we could Bring MLStoIndy. http://www.facebook.com/#!/MLStoIndy

    • Abram says:

      I go to Silverback games, they have decent crowds, but they are pretty bad. I think The Railhawks have stated they are not currently looking to join MLS. I do think that Orlando City could be a dark horse for team 20 or 21.

  27. tbpirate says:

    Earlier posts were correct. The Mutiny had great fan support but suffered from lack of ownership and the Glazer RJS lease. Tampa Bay has a great soccer history and support. MLS needs to come back.

  28. Robert says:

    I wonder if MLS might align its schedule with several of the European schedules and go from August to May. If that ever were the case the argument for the entire southeast for MLS could improve.

    I have a crazy idea. What if MLS did align with the European schedule and say the Red Bull team was New Jersey / Miami. The team could play in Miami basically during the tourism season there, around December through March. The New England team could pair with Orlando, the Philadelphia team could pair with Tampa … That could be an interesting format.

    • Alan says:

      You’re right. It’s a crazy idea.

      • Robert says:

        Baseball has a similar situation with Spring training in warm weather places. With this concept real games could be held at the winter homes for teams from parts of the US with cold climates. I think that it is an intriguing idea. Arizona get a winter team as could San Antonio, New Orleans, and perhaps Atlanta. During the winter the economies of those regions is stronger with visitors from the north. This could be the best way for success for Florida and the entire sun belt for participating in the MLS.

        • SoFla_Fan says:

          I hear the argument for moving to the FIFA schedule all the time, and I can’t believe MLS would actually seriously consider moving to it.

          If MLS moved to an August to May schedule, it would fail. In the current format, the only competition MLS has is baseball. In the winter, it will compete against basketball, hockey, and football (both pro and college are big enough to be considered separate competitors here). Columbus already has poor enough attendance for a good team. Could you imagine if they had games on the same day as the Ohio State Buckeyes?

          We would see lower attendances because the fans that show up that are general sports fans would have to choose between soccer and the other sports (which, let’s face it, especially football, tend to be more popular), sponsorships and tv deals would go down because fewer people would watch, and this would be the death knell of MLS.

          I feel the people that push for this are hard core soccer fans that don’t really care about other sports. That’s fine that they do, but you have to be realistic. Soccer just is not, and will not (at least in our lifetimes) be more popular than, say, football. Moving to a schedule where it has to compete with football and 2 other popular sports, as compared to competing with only 1, is a bad move.

          Besides, many Europeans I’ve talked to like the summer schedule, because it gets too cold to play during the winter months. Watch how many games get rescheduled in the SPL this winter.

          I do think, however, that MLS should start in late Feb and have a 3 week break in the middle of summer when the international tournaments usually start.

          • BamaMan says:

            MLS already competes against all 4 major leagues at some point in their season and even worse they compete against their stiffest competition (March Madness and November football) at the beginning and end of the season.

            Any proposal that values converting football, basketball, baseball, or hockey fans to MLS over bringing in the millions of American soccer fans who currently ignore MLS is doomed to failure.

          • Alan says:

            Once again, I am glad you have common sense. A winter schedule would be the absolute worst idea that MLS can do. Besides from the freezing cold and snow in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and Columbus for 3 months (and there are countries with cancelled games with better weather conditions), also realize that soccer fans in the US tune in to MLS BECAUSE it is in the summer and the European leagues are not playing. Just because countries like Russia are stupid enough to play in crappy weather conditions for a warm weather sport that shouldn’t be played in the snow doesn’t mean that we need to be.

          • BamaMan says:

            Most soccer fans in the US don’t tune into the MLS as it is, Alan. Maybe they tune in for the All-Star game or some World Football Challenge matches, but by and large they have no reason to follow the league. It is the fourth most popular soccer league in the US (MPD, EPL, and La Liga). This is borne out in TV ratings over and over and over again. You mention Columbus; their attendance has fallen off the map without winter weather. Their problem may be that they simply aren’t a viable long-term pro market. So regardless of what you think about the fall-winter schedule, I think we can agree that MLS is failing at the fundamental task of getting soccer fans in the US to tune in.

            But you do mention the Russian Premier League; I think that’s going to be a great test of whether fall-spring soccer can work here. The league is in an even worse boat than we are in terms of travel distance and weather. They are a notch or two below MLS in terms of attendance as a summer league (ranges from 7.5K to nearly 20K). But they (mostly) have about the same time zone advantage (on the other side, of course) vs. the EPL that we do so their games would rarely if ever be scheduled head-to-head. If they see real improvement in both tv viewers and butts in the seats, I don’t see how you can keep up with the same argument. Basically, if fall-spring can work in Tomsk, it can work here. So let’s wait and see.

          • Alan says:

            The most popular sport in Russia is soccer. Soccer here is not. Plus, there are cultural differences. Just because they do stuff in other countries does not mean they will do stuff here. Columbus does have crappy attendance. It will get worse with a winter schedule. Do you honestly think that those not going to games are all of the sudden going to say “I want to go to games now that they play in the cold and snow” or are those that already go to games going to say “I don’t want to freeze my butt off” or “I don’t mind constantly having to try to attend rescheduled games”. This isn’t even an argument. I’m sure it won’t help TV viewership to see the excitement of an empty stadium. It is not just a bad idea. It is the worst idea ever for MLS.

          • BamaMan says:

            Alan,

            Have you ever heard of something called hockey? They play it in Russia and it’s quite popular. Also, they currently draw less fans than MLS as a summer league so what this does to attendance will be especially telling. It may fail. It may not but to pretend it’s not something MLS should be watching is culturally ignorant at best.

            You believe the league should give away things like the opportunity to bring in more US soccer fans, grow TV viewership, keep more USMNT players, synchronize with UEFA transfer windows (allowing us to bring in and send out better players), and oh yeah conform to the FIFA calender just to make things easier on 10,000 fans in Columbus EVEN IF Russia proves it’s a viable business model? That’s pretty stubborn.

          • Alan says:

            Ice hockey is a winter sport. Field hockey is not. It is not played in the winter for obvious reasons. All of your arguments deny common sense.

    • The original Tom says:

      One problem with this is I hate every southern city. So if we were the Phoenix/Colorado Rapids, I’d have much self-hatred.

  29. Rafavic says:

    I agree with Abram that Carolina should get an MLS team. I’m always hearing good things about the Railhawks but if they are not interested then that’s that. I feel that MLS should not go back to the Southeast because I’m just not seeing a passionate enough fan base to really support it. If I had to pick I’d say FTL simply because they want it and Carolina doesn’t. I never put a team in Atlanta no matter who the investor was. When you have a team like the Braves when they were in their hey day have problems selling playoff tickets, I highly doubt soccer would do well. Especially with an expansion team.

    The only way a team would work in MIA is that an existing good MLS team moved there.

  30. Adam says:

    South Florida is a crappy sports community full of fair-weather fans. Orlando is the best choice, by far. 11k fans showed up to watch Orlando City play and EPL team — a far more impressive achievement than anything south Florida ever accomplished. And Orlando also averages a much higher number of fans than either Tampa or Miami.

    Plus, Orlando is full of Europeans (who care about soccer). Much of the Hispanic community of south Florida is full of central Americans and Caribbean transplants (who care about baseball).

    And no, I don’t live near Orlando.

    BTW, the Tampa Mutiny failed because of crappy owners. Miami failed because of crappy fans.

  31. Adam says:

    SoFla_Fan knows hs stuff!

  32. Adam says:

    Oh, and if you’re going to talk about the “great attendance” at Ft. Lauderdale matches, you owe it to yourself to look at the attendance numbers for Orlando City. Orlando City leads Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, everyone in USL PRO and (probably) everyone in NASL in attendance.

    They’re also owned by owners of EPL and Championship teams (Burnley and Stoke City). These owners spent more on payroll than any other team in USL PRO, so clearly they’re committed.

    And look at the results — Orlando City won the best regular season record in USL-PRO, they’re 2 and 2 against MLS teams, and 1 and 1 against EPL teams. Not bad!

    • The Gaffer says:

      The article already mentions the rising attendances in Orlando.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Adam says:

        Yes Gaffer, the article does briefly mention the word “Orlando” as a city with “rising attendance.” But such a description is hardly accurate. This is the first season for Orlando City, so I’m not sure what their attendance rose compared to. Of course, if comparisons were done, your article would point out that Orlando has much higher attendance figures than Tampa or south Florida.

        Garber told south Florida that they need 3k – 4k for each match. If 3k-4k showed up to an Orlando City match it would be a season-low.

        I understand not covering USL and NASL on a MLS blog. But if you’re going to do an article about a 2nd or 3rd division market, how could you write about anywhere OTHER than Orlando?

        Higher attendance levels than any other sub-MLS team in America…winning the regular season title in their first year of existence…committed, big spending EPL owners…a 2-2 record against MLS teams…1-1 against EPL teams, including defeating Newcastle United in front of 11k fans…

        This ISN’T newsworthy, but 3k average attendance for south Florida IS newsworthy?

  33. quentez1 says:

    This weekend me and my wifey went 2 sporting vs sounders at Livestrong the stadium next 2 the speedway in Kansas City ,Kansas on the edge and I sat i 101 row 5 and it was the place 2 be so much energy from fans not just supporters.I drove from Minnesota 2 get some MLS action.If Kansas can support MLS so can Florida but I wanna see pro/reg then all the south teams have 2 work they way in MLS including the cosmos,with my ncs stars number
    20.Between Kansas City,Chicago,Columbus,and Toronto i can travel 2 those derbys easy.

  34. Alan says:

    It is good to hear someone else with some common sense. Englad does not get as cold at Totonto, Montreal, Columbus, etc which having a winter schedule will kill their attendance. Just because northern Denmark and Russia do doesn’t mean that we need to be that stupid. Besides, I hear fans of European soccer say all of the time that they won’t even watch MLS until the summer time. Having a summer schedule makes a great alternative to European soccer and other American sports. We can schedule around the international calendar better though.

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