Miami Is A Complex Market, But Beckham’s MLS Team Can Be A Success Here

The Independent newspaper recently published an article about the forthcoming announcement of David Beckham opening a MLS franchise in Miami. The author spewed lazy stereotypes that many US soccer journalists, bloggers and fans have hurled at Miami for years. They recite the reasons why the market is a failure, a “soccer graveyard” as the author puts it. They criticize the low attendance for a US-Honduras match (21,000), conveniently ignoring the fact that the game was played in the middle of a tropical storm. It’s almost as if the Miami haters want the franchise to fail before it’s even been announced.

Hearing people talk bad about Miami when they don’t even live here is irritating.  It’s like insulting family.  Yeah, you can talk about a family member but if someone else does it, the gloves are off.

I admire that Beckham has faith in Miami and that he’s willing to give the market a shot. Previously, MLS (and its marketing arm SUM) had only thought of Miami whenever they wanted to occasionally promote the sport to the Hispanic market. In terms of TV ratings for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and previous MLS seasons, the impressive TV ratings make the media market highly coveted. And with a name like Beckham involved, the league finally knows that this market can be tapped

Beckham’s name and involvement is a major factor, no doubt. If Beckham wasn’t involved, Miami businessman Marcelo Claure would still be very silent and doing the same thing when he botched the FC Barcelona-led Miami deal a few years ago.

From the outside, Miami is viewed as a city known for its fast cars and hot women.  There is luxury galore in this town, no doubt. But if you look closer, Miami is one of the poorest cities in the United States.  I remember speaking to someone that is heavily involved in the sports market, and he told me something that really stuck in my mind. “Miami is all about image.”

He couldn’t have put it better.

People lease BMWs so they can turn heads, yet they can barely afford rent on their efficiencies. During the housing market collapse, I heard many stories of people losing houses that cost $300,000-$500,000. Yet they earned eight dollars an hour working in retail or fast food. These stories were rampant in Miami.

True fans of teams like the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins have been shut out of being able to go see their teams play. To pay $60-$135 for seats puts sports into perspective. Especially when families are faced with choosing between feeding a family or going to see their favorite team play.

The sports fans that can afford the ticket prices are the ones living in the bubble. They’re the ones sitting in the bottom bowl of the American Airlines Arena. The ones who arrive in the second quarter and leave halfway through the fourth. Those are the ones that are marketed everything here. For them, it’s a matter of being seen, and not about supporting a team. They are part of the glitz and glamour that has earned Miami a reputation of being an event town.

The real people that live here, who work the 9-5 jobs, are the ones who are rarely marketed to. They’re the ones who can occasionally afford a seat for a Miami Heat game, in the 400 level. You know, those are the people that the cameras never focus on.  Those fans that are sitting way too high up to get a shot to grab any T-shirts being flung into the stands. Those fans are always the ones left in the dark.

Hopefully Beckham and his investors won’t hire the publicity agencies that implement the same methods of trying to attract people to come to a club. The answer is not to have flyers passed around near The Clevelander hotel over on Ocean Drive. The agencies need to get into the heart of Miami by going to places like Churchill’s (a watering hole that’s a local institution) and Fiorito over in Little Haiti and in surrounding areas.

Recent soccer events in Miami have painted a very positive outlook for a MLS team to come to the area. Events such as the International Champions Cup, and other friendly matches, such as Barcelona-Chivas de Guadalajara were a smashing success. Later this month, Brazil’s national team will return to Miami for the first time in a decade, where the record soccer attendance of 70,080 will likely be smashed when Brazil plays Honduras on November 16 at Sun Life Stadium, the home of the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross understands the business potential for this sport to grow to the next level, with a local team for fans to support throughout the season, not just for one-off games. It’s no wonder that Ross is teaming up with Beckham. The two of them together can create success where others have failed in South Florida.

Sun Life Stadium has changed so much since the Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins) baseball team left the premises. The Marlins ruined pretty much everything they put their hands on. They ruined a chance for Miami to be a World Cup venue in 1994. And, more recently, they ruined the friendly game between Nigeria and Venezuela at their new state-of-the-art stadium in downtown Miami, which didn’t have the sight lines for soccer.

Miami is not a “build it and they will come” type of town. Miami is a town that follows winners. If they fail to win, fans will find other things to do.

Second chances are very rare in sports. If Miami gets another chance, the city will have to take full advantage of the opportunity. The Miami haters across the United States, and even in South Florida, will want the team to fail miserably. But if there is one thing the City of Miami does well, it’s that it proves people wrong. David Beckham, we’re ready for you.

27 thoughts on “Miami Is A Complex Market, But Beckham’s MLS Team Can Be A Success Here”

  1. You realize that you conclude by saying the team will only be supported if they win right? With the cost of franchising, no one can make it by catering to the general admission fan (where I usually sit). The team will have to market to the wealthy and I can’t imagine the insanely superficial crowd to support a team win or lose rain or shine…. There’s many other cities that would.

  2. This time MLS rides into South Florida and disregards local soccer tradition, history and logic, they won’t be the only game in town(s). The Fort Lauderdale Strikers along with their ownership and league seem to have no intentions of going anywhere. And if team management has any sort of competence, any soccer fan north of 595 should be heading to Lockhart Stadium for games, not whatever “temporary” home the MLS team plays at.

    The majority of people in the SoFla metro area live north of the Broward/Dade county line, and these are the people that have time and again shown they’ll support the domestic game.

    The Open Cup is gonna be fun if this really happens. Would love a road trip to FIU to knock off Bandwagon FC. #FTLTID

    1. Didn’t the NASL commissioner tell you loyal “Fort Lauderdale Strikers fans”, to watch another league? A Miami Francise with Beckham ownership, will make the Fort Lauderdale Strikers look just like the amature team they are.

  3. FYI the Fort Lauderdale Strikers set a team attendance record this year despite being the worst team in the league. Good luck doing that in Miami Golden Balls.

    1. See the typical Ft. Lauderdale hate coming from you, man. Don’t know why. Too much Spanish down there in Miami for you?

  4. “From the outside, Miami is viewed as a city known for its fast cars and hot women. There is luxury galore in this town, no doubt. But if you look closer, Miami is one of the poorest cities in the United States. I remember speaking to someone that is heavily involved in the sports market, and he told me something that really stuck in my mind. “Miami is all about image.””

    miami is like los angeles.

  5. I’m an MLS fan, and I hope this goes well… Especially with Beckhams name attached. But I the odds of this working are overwhelmingly long. The Heat (after LeBron’s arrivial) are the only Florida team NOT in the bottom 1/3rd of their league in attendance. Even when teams are good in Florida attendance has been abysmal. Even when the Ray’s had the best record in baseball in 2010 they couldn’t make it out of the bottom third in attendance. This isn’t even taking into account Tampa and Miami had to contract teams already due to lack of support. I would much rather see teams go to a city where it would be the only professional sport. It’s worked well for the Carolina Hurricanes and Oklahoma City Thunder.

  6. This is going to crash and burn. When the Marlins purchased the new stadium and tried to hastily assemble a strong team, they started losing, fan attendance plummeted far below the norm for a stadium’s inaugural season. Now they can’t give tickets away. Miami Heat attendance between the time when Wade won his first title with Shaq and “The Decision” was stuck in the mid level, even as the team won and finished in the top 5 of the Eastern Conference consistently. The Dolphins haven’t come close to selling out a game in ages, and the U hasn’t been drawing in numbers since they fell off the map in the mid 2000’s.

    I don’t care who is running it, putting an MLS franchise in the home of the nation’s most plastic fans is a terrible idea.

    1. Other than living in the same region, what do Marlins fans have in common with soccer fans? Practically nothing.

      Using the Marlins as a barometer, one of the worst managed teams in all of American sports and one that fleeced a city by convincing them to build and pay for a stadium in downtown Miami, has nothing to do with soccer.

      The discussion should be centered around soccer. South Florida has had some of the largest attendances for recent soccer games…

      70,080 for Barcelona vs Chivas — Largest attendance ever for a soccer game in Florida

      67,273 for Real Madrid vs Chelsea

      57,748 for AC Milan vs Chelsea

      And so on.

      1. But how many will turn out for MLS? It’s not like we haven’t seen this movie before with the Fusion. Miami has the reputation of a fairweather sports town, unfortunately. Unless they are competitive straight out of the box it could quickly go down hill for Goldenballs.

        1. The Fusion played in the same stadium at the Strikers. It’s a poor comparison. Broward and Palm Beach soccer fans failed the Fusion; not Miami’s.

          This fact always seems ignored by the pro-Strikers-to-MLS crowd (not saying you are one of those people).

          I just don’t see why both the Strikers and the new Miami team can’t both be supported. They play in different leagues. I’m from Miami, support the Strikers, and will support Miami MLS.

          As long as a good decision on the stadium is made, and they bring in a few recognizable stars on the field, MLS Miami will work.

          For any South Floridian to root against that is pretty pathetic and petty, IMO.

          1. For the record, Palm Beach/Broward didn’t fail the Fusion. Owner Ken Horowitz did after deciding not to continue investing the team even though attendances and sponsorships were on the rise.

  7. Having lived in south florida for years I Can’t see this being a success. They may attract fans at the start but the novelty will wear of very quickly.

  8. Is there are worse sports city in the country? If so, it would have to be Jax or Tampa. Florida is no place for professional teams. Stick to college football.

  9. Considering the Miami fan base is notorious for being bandwagonners and fair weather fans, you can’t seriously expect this to last. At best, the people who would actually want to watch it or support the team won’t be able to attend anyway thanks to ticket prices.

  10. Make no mistake! We take a stand here. The Fort Lauderdale Striker supporters and it’s Broward county fan base will never support any MLS franchise in Miami with or without David Beckman. Club tradition of Fort Lauderdale Strikers is the only SFL Soccer historic, you will never trump that.

  11. I am going to sound like one of the many snobs on here that bash MLS or American soccer in general but here it goes…Miami is a great town but far from a sports town. Those big attendance numbers you point at are for the worlds biggest clubs with the biggest stars on the planet that draw well almost anywhere they go. Miami is fair weather and fans will come if they play an “attractive style” but in MLS do you really think that will be consistant?

    Regardless, if they do get a team I will be pulling for them to do well. It can only help American soccer if they succeed.

  12. You need attractive soccer, some cheerleaders like Roma, and LOW let me repeat LOW ticket prices. It is hot, sticky, and tickets should be between $10-$50. Up the cost on concessions.

  13. Let the market decide who gets to play in D1. I’m okay with Miami having a team but you must start at the bottom of the pyramid and earn your way into D1.

  14. “If they fail to win, fans will find other things to do.”

    The writer undercut his whole thesis by closing with this. Real fans support their teams no matter what. Sure, attendance may dip in bad seasons, but a core base of support is always there.

    I’d like to see MLS succeed in Miami but there are plenty of reasons for skepticism…and not just because the skeptics are “haters.”

    1. The dude is not writing a college thesis, you moron. He’s just telling you of the reality of how it is here in Miami. Another nitpicky ass.

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