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Beckham Needs to Focus On South Florida Not Miami For MLS Expansion

fort lauderdale strikers over mls banner 600x448 Beckham Needs to Focus On South Florida Not Miami For MLS Expansion

Former England captain David Beckham is in Miami today for exploratory meetings regarding the possibility of a MLS team coming to the city. While a lot of noise has been made recently about the potential MLS expansion to Miami, what has been often lost in this discussion is that southeast Florida already has a professional team with over 35 years of history and a strong supporter base that values supporting a local club with history over a random manufactured one.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers currently play in the second tier North American Soccer League and average over 4,500 fans a game at the historic Lockhart Stadium.

When the Strikers returned in 2011 as a rebrand of Miami FC, the attendance for the team more than tripled and many fans came out of woodwork embracing a legacy they had fallen in love with or grown up with. The Strikers which existed in various forms from 1977 to 1997 had among its most illustrious stars Gerd Müller, Ray Hudson,  Nene Cubillias, George Best, Ricky Villa, Ian Callaghan and Brian Kidd, among others.  Previous attempts to impose a new team cultural and professional soccer brand on the region had failed, and Miami FC’s ownership Traffic Sports wisely realized that without embracing the Strikers legacy, achieving local success was nearly impossible.

Major League Soccer, after years of resistance, finally employed a strategy that rewarded organic growth and historical legacies with elevation of the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact from Division 2 leagues to the major league in North America. The former three markets and sides had been historical links to the days of the original NASL and today are among the strongest and most visibly successful clubs on the continent.

Additionally, forty years of history has proven time and time again that professional soccer clubs draw better support in Broward and Palm Beach counties than in Miami-Dade.  While outside perception is that Miami is soccer crazed, it is in fact the areas north (Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach) that have traditionally supported the game in South Florida. Zach Reese the President of  Flight 19, the local supporters club, penned an editorial last week that lays out the history and why the northern areas of the metropolitan area support soccer at a stronger rate than those to the south.

Local soccer supporters are united behind wanting to see Major League Soccer, the United States’ top-flight league return to the area. But most active supporters do not want to trade a historical legacy in D-2 for a manufactured club in the top division. The preference would be that David Beckham and whoever else is interested in discussing MLS in the area work with the Strikers to elevate the existing professional club to the top division. Doing otherwise would disrespect the work of so many through the years and those who have put time and effort into building up and supporting a second division club while keeping the flame of professional soccer alive locally. In addition, any manufactured club is unlikely to find the deep abiding support and loyalty of local fans that the Strikers continue to enjoy.

On Tuesday, Flight 19 unveiled a banner (pictured above) during the US Open Cup match in Fort Lauderdale versus MLS table toppers FC Dallas. The TIFO was a big hit at the match and summed up the sentiments of the vast majority of true soccer supporters in the area.

David Beckham ought to meet with supporters and understand the concerns about displacing a historic legacy and locating a team in the wrong part of the metropolitan area before proceeding further in seeking an MLS team in the area.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

57 Responses to Beckham Needs to Focus On South Florida Not Miami For MLS Expansion

  1. Gerry Binks says:

    The talentless ho who governs his every move could get camera face time in miami, not in fort lauderdale.

    • The Gaffer says:

      I disagree. All of South Florida is pretty cosmopolitan. Miami has the hip factor, but elevating Fort Lauderdale Strikers to MLS, and thereby enticing fans to support the team from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties would be a better route instead of manufacturing a new MLS team and locating it in Miami, where the city has a long history of poor attendance records for its soccer teams.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Roger says:

      “vast majority of true soccer supporters” — In other words, only people that agree with this one sided article are to be considered true soccer supporters.

      Those who want MLS in Miami are not counted against the “vast majority” nor are they “true” soccer supporters…

      This is a flat out lie.

      Yes, many of you are in love with the Strikers even if they are in D2, that’s great. But it’s a simple fact MANY fans love the MLS.

      As a matter of fact, South Florida (Including Miami and Fort Lauderdale) have the largest MLS viewership outside MLS cities. Yet the strikers game “only” draw 4K (I know it’s a good number in it’s own right). But considering how many watch MLS, it’s safe to say that actually the GRAND MAJORITY of soccer fans prefer MLS to NASL.

      Just a fact.

      But I’m sure you wouldn’t consider them “true soccer supporters” since they are not in love with the NASL and the Strikers…

      • Thierry Kawczynski says:

        “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”!! Look at the History of Soccer in this area and you WILL see that every attempt to put a soccer team in Miami has ALWAYS failed and the team has eventually relocated to Fort Lauderdale. Period. It’s a fact.

        Back in 1972, the Miami Toros first played in the Orange Bowl and then moved to Tamiami Park before realizing that there was NO support in Miami. So, in 1976, the team relocated to Fort Lauderdale and renamed itself the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Strikers went on to great success, made it to Soccer Bowl 1980 against the N.Y. Cosmos, and drew a very dedicated fan base. If not for the fact the entire NASL was imploding from within, the team would have been a mainstay in South Florida sports.

        Next, the Miami Fusion from 1998 to 2001. An MLS team that played it’s games in FORT LAUDERDALE, in the very same stadium that the Strikers played in. Ownership understood that the team needed to be located here in order to succeed. It was odd though having a team playing in Fort Lauderdale to be named Miami but I guess it’s all about that so-called “hip factor”. Whatever. But, here again, if not for ownership woes and the league’s finances in question as well, they decided to pull the plug on the Fusion even after they won the Supporter’s Shield as regular season champs.

        Finally, we have Miami, FC. The “Blues” were in operation from 2005 to 2010 playing their games in front of sparse crowds at FIU Stadium. In late 2010, they began playing their home games in….guess where….Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium! That’s right, the same place where both the Strikers and Fusion had previously played. Crowds in Fort Lauderdale were up and so were finances. Ownership quickly understood that they need dot capitalize on this and changed the team’s name to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. They currently play in the reborn NASL, a 2nd Division Professional league under the MLS and crowds are 3 times what they were when playing in Miami…and this is all done without any major marketing campaign and absolutely no mention of the team in local TV sports casts. Imagine how many more people they could get if they had more finances to properly market a 1st Division team along with Beckham’s (and Le Bron’s) name as well.

        So, if David Beckham does his homework and gets the proper advise from his entourage, he’d be wise to approach the owners of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and find a way to bring that team up to MLS. The City of Fort Lauderdale, as I understand it, are interested in building a soccer specific stadium (much like the City of Orlando is doing). And, if he’s been paying attention to what’s been going on in MLS, it is fashionable to link teams back to their 1970′s roots. Simply look at the team names of: San Jose Earthquakes, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact….ALL ORIGINAL NASL team names. Therefore, you can’t get any more nostalgic in Miami / Fort Lauderdale than the FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS (along with the New York Cosmos). Memories of Gerd Mueller, George Best, Ray Hudson, Teofilio “Nene” Cubillas, etc.

        “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    • Alexander Gago - Strikers Until I Die! says:

      We reach that point! With Orlando City SC set to join MLS and Miami what-you-may-call it FC, and the NASL’s Rowdies and Strikers once again part of the soccer landscape in Florida, each of these teams will need Floridian rivalries to stoke fan interest. Rather than confusing Miami-Dade County (MLS Miami’s natural fan base) with Palm Beach and Broward Counties (NASL Striker’s base), South Florida needs its own MLS-NASL rivalry. And all of Florida needs its own version of the Cascadia Cup – a cross-league derby that, ahem, can’t be “owned” by either of the leagues, but by the SUPPORTS fans themselves. Indeed, the best is yet to come for Florida Soccer fans.

  2. ElectricBoogalo says:

    “Florida already has a professional team with over 35 years of history and a strong supporter base that values supporting a local club with history over a random manufactured one.”

    Meh, I don’t think you can really make a claim to “history” over “randomness” when you admit that the current incarnation of FLS is merely a “rebranding” of Miami FC.

    What could be more random and contrived than taking a team and simply changing it’s name to ape another?

    • ElectricBoogalo says:

      That said, I think it definitely makes sense for MLS/Beckham to focus their attention on elevating the existing FLS brand (since it at least seems to have some following), rather than starting from scratch with a new team in Miami.

      That said, I thought the same about NY2 and the Cosmos, so what do I know…

      • Miami22 says:

        New York City FC isn’t a proven success yet, you may still have a correct point about the Cosmos in the end.

    • The Gaffer says:

      It’s certainly not contrived. The key factor is that the club decided to move from Miami to play at Lockhart Stadium, which has been home to the Strikers since 1977. The roots of soccer in South Florida (and the Strikers) are built from that stadium. The club embraced the history, colors and tradition of the Strikers, which has been successful ever since.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • ElectricBoogalo says:

        How is it not contrived if a team changes it’s name to try and jump on the bandwagon of a previously-established (and now defunct) team? I suppose this just drives at the heart of what makes a team – can teams just adopt another team’s colours and name and assume their identity? I’m not sure.

  3. James says:

    Orlando is the natural choice for a FL-based MLS team, not Fort Lauderdale or Miami. Orlando City are not only extremely successful on the field but they already draw around 8,000 fans each game on average.

    • The Gaffer says:

      True, but they have no stadium. A MLS team in South Florida could choose between Sun Life Stadium, FAU Stadium or redeveloping Lockhart Stadium.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Miami22 says:

        Recently the Strikers owner has spoken out about updating Lockheart stadium or looking for another location in Fort Lauderdale to build a completely new soccer specific stadium altogether.

      • James says:

        The City of Orlando recently bought land for downtown soccer stadium and is just looking for funding now. But is the situation really better down in S. Florida? Sun Life and FAU Stadium are comparable to Orlando’s Citrus Bowl (OCSC’s current home) and Bright House Networks Stadium at UCF and all are too big for an MLS team IMO. That leaves redeveloping Lockhart or building a new stadium in Lauderdale and I haven’t heard any real plans to do either.

        • The Gaffer says:

          The Citrus Bowl is an aging stadium, built in 1936. Miami’s version of that stadium, the Orange Bowl, was knocked down a few years ago. Sun Life Stadium, just like Seattle’s NFL stadium, would be a perfect home.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

      • James says:

        To add: there’s no reason why Florida can’t support multiple MLS teams. The TB Rowdies are getting excellent support also but again the sticking point is the stadium.

    • I tend to agree Orlando is the top prospect with OCSC doing so well but my sense is MLS is going to add Orlando PLUS one more southeastern city in the next round of expansion. So will that be SE Florida, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Charlotte, Nashville or some other place is the question.

  4. Stephen says:

    FAU Stadium would be a perfect venue. I watched the USWNT play there in December and it was great. Good location too for all of South Florida. As a resident of Palm Beach County I would find it very difficult to support a team that played in Miami.

    • Moneyproof Wallets says:

      Agreed. Having lived in West Palm for several years, I’d much rather travel to Boca than to Miami. Really, I can’t see why folks don’t take advantage of the ease of traveling to and in Palm Beach County rather than continue relying on the madness that is trying to find one’s way around Miami!

  5. Lenny says:

    Krishnaiyer constantly referring to NASL as “second-tier” and MLS as “top-tier” explains why NASL and he have parted ways. He simply did not believe in NASL’s potential and he must be trying to divert attention from the NASL teams defeating and eliminating the two biggest MLS “brands” last night in the US Open Cup. No league that has NY Cosmos is ever going to be second fiddle to a league with the Columbus Crew.

    As for this specific issue KK is on the money. Miami a non-starter in any pro soccer league.

    I even think if Beckham goes to Miami and plays at let us say FIU where Miami FC previously drew about 100 fans a game, the Strikers could survive at Lockhart while MLS Beckham manufactured team goes under in a year or two.

    Beckham would be wise to read this before talking to Claure or any other person being used by MLS & Garber to destabilize the Strikers club, the second falgship of NASL behind Cosmos because they know they have lost NYC to the Cosmos.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Lenny, to be fair, NASL is the second tier. And MLS is the first tier.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Justin says:

      Kartik will probably be able to his “second-tier” and top-tier” references tonight while on The Tailgate Show. Kartik is a regular contributor to the show which airs Thursdays at 7pm eastern on http://www.thetailgateshow.us.

      Agreed, Becks can’t look at Miami without understanding it’s neighbors to the north in FTL and PB.

      • The Gaffer says:

        True. Looking forward to listening to it, too. Plus Kartik will be on talkSPORT at 9.15pm ET tonight to talk about Beckham’s MLS to Miami plans.

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

    • Tim says:

      “MLS has lost NYC to the Cosmos.” On what planet? 1977 is calling, and it wants its hubris back.

      • ElectricBoogalo says:

        @Tim – Exactly…if anything, the fact that Man City/Yankees/MLS have started from scratch with NYCFC rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the Cosmos brand name (and you’ve gotta believe it wasn’t a decision taken lightly) shows that a relative handful of supporters pining for an established “historical” name might be of little relevance to the decision makers.

    • Kravitz says:

      Nasl is a second division league. There are 100 million reasons why none of the Nasl teams will ever be top tier. Accept the structure and check the ego on whatever first class flight Peterson is flying on today. Nasl now stands for not actually seen live because I can’t even see it on my tv-and their genius new pr crew screwed up so we couldn’t even watch it online last week when our beloved Strikers played. Watch party was awesome thank you very much. If KK were there that wouldn’t have happened-love the apology you posted on fb and then deleted when the fans were complimenting KK.

  6. NC says:

    Gaffer – Maybe the MLS people are concerned that South Florida is already over-extended as a sports market. While I think that using attendance figures is an antiquated way of measuring a region’s interest in a sport, the fact remains that is the way people judge a city’s viability for supporting sport. In the nearly 20 years that South Florida has had the NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL quad there has never been a time when all four were adequately supported. When you look at the progress MLS has made in the last decade it is clear they are making smart decisions. I don’t believe for a second that the power people in the league don’t have a long term plan. if they want to be in Florida going anywhere but Orlando poses an enormous risk. Tampa bay and South Florida are tapped out. Orlando has capacity for more professional sports. Its really an easy choice.

    As for stadiums in Orlando, I think you are being unfair to Orlando. They can just as easily play in the new UCF football stadium the same way the Strikers can play at FAU.

    • The Gaffer says:

      I don’t believe that MLS is concerned about South Florida as a sports market. They were in the past, but Miami last summer had the largest attendance for any match in the World Football Challenge. Plus, the same stadium had 70,000+ fans for Barcelona against Chivas recently.

      I’d be fine with South Florida or Orlando or another market in the south east getting a team. For MLS to completely ignore 25% of the United States population for 12 years by not having a single team in the southeastern region of the country is insane.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • IanCransonsKnees says:

        Orlando City, coached by Tony Pulis, still wearing the club shop.

      • NC says:

        I agree with you re: ignoring the south. But while geographically speaking the south includes Florida, from a demographics standpoint, South Florida isn’t “The South” per se. The thing about the south though is that College Football is SO far and away more important than any other sport. It was discussed on MLSTalk (RIP) the ratings problem with last years final. Many pointed to the fact that it fell in the same time slot as the SEC CG. The most important MLS games are played on Saturdays from September to December. This is a really really tough sell to the southern sports fan. From March to August….no problem. There are plenty of markets without MLB that would love to embrace a soccer team (Raleigh and Nashville spring to mind as excellent choices that could be rivals ala Portland/Seattle). But come September, it would be next to impossible to have a team to draw well enough to compete against the SEC. (This is an entirely different subject but should the schedule shift to incorporate more weekday games or align with the FIFA calendar that changes everything). That is where South Florida gains an edge over the rest of the south. College Sports don’t matter in Miami the way they matter elsewhere in the geographic south (no matter what Canes fans may tell you this is a fact). Lastly, I hesitate to use any summer friendly attendance measure to support the plausibility of the area as an MLS market. You and I both live down here and we know that the immigration population turns out for those games and will likely not turn out in similar numbers for an MLS version of the Strikers. This is a complex discussion, and the fact that the MLS hasn’t made it back to the south since leaving Miami and Tampa suggests that these factors are weighing heavily on their decision to return. As a fan of the sport I’d love for them to come back.

        • The Gaffer says:

          College football is popular in the south, but I don’t think that’s an excuse why MLS has overlooked the region. There are enough people in the south who would support a soccer team and that have no interest in college throwball.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • NC says:

            I’ll respectfully agree to disagree. Haven’t spent massive amounts of time in the deep south that person you just described (the non college football fan) doesn’t exist.

            • The Gaffer says:

              I’m one example of that. But there are many people in the south who couldn’t give two hoots about college football.

              Cheers,
              The Gaffer

          • NC says:

            Just for clarification, when I say the South I’m talking about the Deep South as it pertains to demographics. South Florida is not “the south”. The South stops a little north of Orlando and the rest of FLorida is really it’s own animal. My whole idea on football in the south being a barrier to MLS is more of a dialog on the viability of Nashville and Raleigh. MLS on Saturdays in the fall would be next to impossible to sell in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas.

  7. Uncle Ed says:

    I agree Strikers should be the team going to MLS. But their current ownership will do nothing to make that happen. Have they even tried to talk to Beckham?
    As far as the statistics, anyone can google and become a historian and statistician if they have a couple hours to kill. But does this even apply to todays market? In the end, billionaires will do what they want and hire actual experts to do the numbers and indicate whether this project will work or not. Support soccer how you will but tooting FTL to uncaring ears is useless. Trying to sabotage MIA only hurts South Florida as a market. South Florida is ONE market not 2 or 3 as some would like to have people believe. MLS, NASL, whatever, will survive if their owners/FO realize this.
    Even if Beckham buys the Strikers he will probably move them farther South.
    We are trying to set up a townhall meeting, if not with Beckham, with Claure. I’ll make sure Zach gets invited to state his case.

    • Ed, love you to death but the stats Zach cites are real empirical data about the success and failure of the market as well as demographic trends.

      This having been said I think everyone should know Ed supports the Strikers and comes to every game and makes a very long and difficult drive to do so. I wish we had more like him in the area. Maybe then we would be in the same strong position as Orlando is in currently.

      • Uncle Ed says:

        I think the Strikers are only limited by their owners flawed view that NASL can compete with MLS.
        I really think Strikers have peeked as far as attendance. 4 to 5k is what they can hope for and maybe Orlando City numbers if they say they have MLS in mind.
        Double digits with no problem if they go to MLS.
        I support the Strikers, but I want to see them play with stars and against the Galaxy, The Red Bulls, Seattle, etc.

  8. Luciano says:

    If Beckham and a big time partner are going to start a club to be a serious force in MLS why on earth would they want to associate with a struggling minor league team?

    If big time pro soccer is going to work in South Florida it has to be big time. And look at Beckham’s life – Man Utd, Real Madrid, AEG/LA Galaxy, AC Milan, PSG. And then Traffic’s tiny club in Broward?

    Get real.

  9. Richard Kujay says:

    Miami’s general predilection for not supporting any sports teams of any sort is well documented. Not to be a homer, but in Tampa we supported the Rowdies to the tune of 50 to 60 thousand per match at the old
    Sombrero. But Tampa is not Miami and David and the Mrs. want international in the city where they will have a business and residence. Their money and they get to choose, but I don’t see Miami supporting soccer.

    • Tampa Bay historically is the best soccer market in the state and is one of three markets in the country that currently supports multiple pro teams. However, Orlando City’s success and almost sure entry to MLS when the stadium situation is sorted likely means that Tampa Bay is not getting MLS anytime soon. Keep supporting the Rowdies, they are doing you proud season and after season and especially last night!

  10. Johnny says:

    Let me begin by stating that while I would prefer an entirely new MLS team in Miami, I would not be opposed to supporting a MLS team in FTL, be they the Strikers or some other iteration. However, what I have gathered from Strikers fans is that they have a “‘Strikers or nothing,” approach, and that is simply counterproductive. Many Strikers fans also seem to lack the interest (and the club itself the ambition) to see the Strikers in the MLS. For anyone who wants to see their hometown club play at the nation’s highest level, then this lack of ambition is off-putting and again, counterproductive.

    This article states that”most active supporters do not want to trade a historical legacy in D-2 for a manufactured club in the top division.” By most “active supporters,” you must be referring to Strikers fans, as I don’t think South Florida soccer fans that don’t follow the Strikers (the majority) care whether it’s a grassroots or “manufactured” approach. Obviously grassroots has its benefits, but South Florida, be it FTL or Miami, would be silly to turn down a Bekcham/Claure offer to build an MLS team.

    To argue that the history/following of the Strikers should be the reason it is better suited than Miami for building an MLS franchise would ignore the fact that despite being around since the 70s, the Strikers still only draw 4,500 on average. Along those lines, it’s unfair to point to Miami’s failed soccer franchises while simultaneously glossing over or making excuses for why teams have also not lasted long in Fort Lauderdale, despite their relative success. Over 30 years of on and off again history, and they still only draw a small fraction of the tri-county populace, despite their location, history, etc. My argument isn’t that the history of soccer in Fort Lauderdale isn’t significant, but that I think it is over-hyped. How can we look to the 70s and 80s, when South Florida as a whole could barely maintain a soccer franchise despite having the Dolphins as the only competition until 1988 (the Heat)?

    Finally, I must address the editorial you cited in your article, as Zach didn’t allow for comments on the Flight 19 site.

    While I commend Zach Reese for the time and effort he put into his editorial, I find it full of generalizations and leaps in logic. My biggest problem with his editorial is his generalization of Miami’s Hispanic community, specifically that of people of Cuban heritage. While he is correct that Cuban culture is not one which historically embraces soccer, it is pretty nearsighted, even ignorant, to assume that Cuban-Americans are not or cannot be soccer fans. By stating that one could “cut” the Hispanic population of Miami in half by eliminating Cubans from the potential soccer fan pool, Zach Reese demonstrates how little he knows about Cuban-Americans and Miami-Dade County. This was made more obvious to me when he cited the Cuban tourism website (which has nothing to do with Cubans in the USA and everything to do with those on the island) as a “reference” for his editorial. To be clear, there are many Cuban-American soccer fans in Miami-Dade County (myself included, if that wasn’t obvious by now), and the fact that their parents have no allegiance to a “home” soccer team should make them a target audience whose support you should seek, not write off. That said, other young Hispanic-Americans in Miami would be willing to support a local team as well as their “home” team, considering it’s not as easy to catch those matches (Liga MX aside).

    Furthermore, his editorial points to census figures, which he uses to justify having a team in FTL over Miami. If Broward’s higher population density and average income are such significant factors to consider, why do the Dolphins, Heat, and Marlins not play in Broward County? While the average attendance at Joe Robbie, the AAA, and Marlins Park, depends largely on the success of each team, its tough to argue against a city that has managed to support three major franchises since 1993 (albeit with the help of Broward and Palm Beach residents, who are always welcome).

    In the end, I want soccer to succeed in South Florida, with an MLS franchise to show for it.

    /Rant

    • While you may have issues with the characterizations in Zach’s editorial, through the years I have seen comments from the limited soccer support in Miami-Dade County referring among other things to Broward and Palm Beach as “the sticks,” and an area “filled with gringos who do not understand proper futbol.”

      The reality is the Caribbean community in Broward is larger than Miami-Dade and are into the idea and concept of supporting a local team. That’s what makes support for lower division clubs in England, Germany and Holland so phenomenal.

      It is difficult to call one a “soccer supporter” if they do not attend local games and support the local product. We all aspire to have a higher level team but when you are snobbish enough to snub what you have how can you be counted on to support another team. You know MLS is not at the level of LigaMX so maybe we’ll fly down and check out Atlante games instead once MLS comes. Then when MLS eclipses LigaMX we will hear complaints about the quality of play and how it is not like the Premier League or La Liga. With fans Miami who claim to be “soccer supporters” it is always something. If you won’t embrace a local professional product which is the best you have, why would you embrace a product which many (not including myself) still claim is inferior to most high televised leagues? Think about it.

      My point is if you are a true soccer supporter you attend local games and advocate for the sport and your local team. Uncle Ed does that so he has the credibility to debate us on this, but most others don’t do this and then quite frankly don’t have the credibility. Everything about fans coming out of the woodwork in Miami-Dade to support MLS is a theory and quite frankly from where I sit wishful and hopeful thinking.

      We all would strive to be MLS, but let’s do it right this time or their won’t be a next time for our region.

    • FTLS says:

      Those stats are relevant because we’re talking about soccer, not the Dolphins, Heat, and Marlins. MLS is “major legaue” in name only. The “Big 4″ north american sports teams could play anywhere they want and they will draw, particularly if doing well.

      None of the best players in the world play in MLS. Counting on “star power” to bring in fans won’t work. You have to connect to a community from the ground up(see the most successful MLS teams – Portland, Seattle, Montreal, Vancouver, KC – not the “big & flashy” markets like LA, NY, or Chicago).

      Miami is an oversaturated live sports market – Fort Lauderdale is not. It would be easier to get FTL(and PB) fans to rally around a Fort Lauderdale based (and branded) team that is close to them and they can identify with as opposed to trying to compete with 3 major league sports teams in Miami, while shutting out northern populace thanks to the distance/traffic issues.

      4,500 is a pretty good average crowd in division 2. The Seattle Sounders were drawing 3,300 in division 2 from 1994-2008. Give that built in fanbase and history the infrastructure of MLS and a new stadium and it’s a hard-to-screw-it-up scenario.

      The Strikers may have come and gone a few times over the years, but so have the Sounders, Timbers, Whitecaps, Rowdies, etc. etc. Heck every market in America has had a soccer team fail. The important thing is that Strikers have come back 3 times. That’s not by accident. It means something to this community. I don’t hear anybody pining for the Miami Toros or Americans to come back to life.

      In the end I’m not worried because even with an MLS at JRS, there is still a niche for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to survive, especially if they get their own stadium in the near future. We can have a nice Open Cup derby some day.

  11. Luciano says:

    Well said Johnny.

    Cubans do not have a natural affinity for basketball either – but if any of the sports fans dismissing that community attended a Miami Heat game they would meet thousands of Miamians of Cuban heritage cheering on their local team.

    In contrast, Cubans DO have a historical affinity for baseball yet they are not packing into Marlins Park.

    The difference between the Heat and the Marlins? Winning of course, plus a well organized franchise which has a real relationship with the community.

    I see no reasons why a professionally-run, successful, community-focused MLS team in Miami would not attract support from the Cuban-American population – which after all is extremely proud of the city their community has played such a major role in building.

    Indeed, I could easily imagine more Cuban-Americans attending soccer at Marlins Park than currently pay to watch the pitiful Marlins…..

    Kartik is right that fans can already support the Strikers but there isn’t a city in the country where soccer fans wouldn’t rather watch top class soccer than the minor leagues. Same goes for any sport.

    Miami hasn’t ever had a top class soccer team playing in the city. The dreadful Traffic creation at Tropical Park was never taken seriously and moved to Fort Lauderdale where they draw a couple of thousand and very little attention.

    The original Strikers, like the Cosmos, were a short-lived but fascinating part of soccer history in the U.S.

    A major league team in Miami, backed by Beckham and supported by key businesses and sports figures in the city, would be on a different level all together.

    Bring on Club Deportivo Miami, Miami International FC, or whatever it will be called. It would be an exciting new chapter in Miami sports and the development of soccer in the United States.

    If a handful of people want to cling to their memories of the old NASL – that’s fine. They can watch a minor league team play Edmonton and Tampa – the rest of us will be enjoying our rivalry with New York City FC and the LA Galaxy…..

  12. Kartik Krishnaiyer says:

    The entire discussion may be moot if Atlanta gets a stadium with Blank. Then the next expansion is Atlanta and Orlando instead of Miami/Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

    Orlando is a given when (not if, it’s a when) the SSS is built.

  13. Kartik Krishnaiyer says:

    BTW, I and many many others believe Orlando will be a Portland/Salt Lake/ post 2011 Kansas City type success story. So they get in for sure if they get an SSS.

  14. Harold says:

    I don’t think becks would have a problem putting the strikers brand in MLS. That is to say “MIAMI Strikers”. Regardless of where in south florida the team would play. Likely Fort Lauderdale. Keep in mind when NASL registered Fort Lauderdale Strikers back in November 19, 2009, they also registered MIAMI Strikers. Eventually abandoning it August 27, 2010.
    http://i.snag.gy/KoW8I.jpg. Point is it’s a possiblity no one should discount…yet.

  15. David says:

    I thought Miami IS in South Florida. Maybe we are talking about the wrong Florida here.

  16. Alex Gago says:

    As a long time Striker fan form the 70s. The win win scenario is to renovate historic Soccer specific Lockhart stadium with it’s rich history and bring the Strikers to MLS with a new soccer specific stadium would be grand!

  17. Alistair says:

    I agree with this article. I think it would be a mistake for Beckham to ignore the Strikers. He should buy the team and promote to the MLS.

  18. Thierry Kawczynski says:

    “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”!!

    Look at the History of Soccer in this area and you WILL see that every attempt to put a soccer team in Miami has ALWAYS failed and the team has eventually relocated to Fort Lauderdale. Period. It’s a fact.

    Back in 1972, the Miami Toros first played in the Orange Bowl and then moved to Tamiami Park before realizing that there was NO support in Miami. So, in 1976, the team relocated to Fort Lauderdale and renamed itself the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Strikers went on to great success, made it to Soccer Bowl 1980 against the N.Y. Cosmos, and drew a very dedicated fan base. If not for the fact the entire NASL was imploding from within, the team would have been a mainstay in South Florida sports.

    Next, the Miami Fusion from 1998 to 2001. An MLS team that played it’s games in FORT LAUDERDALE, in the very same stadium that the Strikers played in. Ownership understood that the team needed to be located here in order to succeed. It was odd though having a team playing in Fort Lauderdale to be named Miami but I guess it’s all about that so-called “hip factor”. Whatever. But, here again, if not for ownership woes and the league’s finances in question as well, they decided to pull the plug on the Fusion even after they won the Supporter’s Shield as regular season champs.

    Finally, we have Miami, FC. The “Blues” were in operation from 2005 to 2010 playing their games in front of sparse crowds at FIU Stadium. In late 2010, they began playing their home games in….guess where….Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium! That’s right, the same place where both the Strikers and Fusion had previously played. Crowds in Fort Lauderdale were up and so were finances. Ownership quickly understood that they needed tocapitalize on this and changed the team’s name to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

    The Fort Lauderdale Strikers currently play in the reborn NASL, a 2nd Division Professional league under the MLS and crowds are 3 times what they were when playing in Miami…and all this is done without any major marketing campaign and absolutely no mention of the team in local TV sports casts. Imagine how many more people they could get if they had more finances to properly market a 1st Division team along with David Beckham’s (and possibly Le Bron Jmes’) name attached as well.

    So, if David Beckham does his homework and gets the proper advise, he’d be wise to approach the owners of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and find a way to bring that team up to MLS. The City of Fort Lauderdale, as I understand it, are very interested in building a soccer specific stadium (much like the City of Orlando is has just approved). And, if he’s been paying attention to what’s been going on in MLS over the last few years of expansion, it is fashionable to link teams back to their communities’ 1970′s roots. Simply look at the team names of: San Jose Earthquakes, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact….ALL ORIGINAL NASL team names.

    Therefore, you can’t get any more nostalgic in Miami / Fort Lauderdale than the FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS. Memories of Gerd Mueller, George Best, Ray Hudson, Teofilio “Nene” Cubillas, Jan van Beveren,

    “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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