The return of MLS to South Florida is inevitable. All indications are that the franchise led by David Beckham is a go. The only two major questions that need to be answered are when the announcement will be made, and where the team will play.
For Major League Soccer to be successful in South Florida, the key ingredients are a winning team that plays attractive soccer, a world-class marketing machine and — perhaps most importantly of all — a stadium that’s ideally located that will be able to welcome soccer fans throughout the region.
The urban sprawl of South Florida spans a distance of approximately 100 miles from Miami-Dade County, through Broward County and up to Palm Beach County in the north. The span of 100 miles, easily accessible via the I-95 Corridor or Florida’s Turnpike, connects the 5.7 million inhabitants of the three South Florida counties. Interestingly, 2.5 million of the 5.7 million live in Miami-Dade County.
Before Beckham announces where his Miami MLS franchise will call home, here’s our analysis of the 8 stadium sites that Beckham and his advisors should consider:
Business entrepreneur and investor Marcelo Claure, who wined and dined Beckham when he was in Miami earlier this summer, is on the board of trustees of Florida International University, making the FIU Stadium an early favorite to house the Miami MLS team.
1. The location of the stadium is convenient for residents of Miami.
1. The stadium is in the middle of a college campus. While it’s convenient for students to walk across campus to attend games, driving from the main road to and from the stadium is tedious to say the least.
2. The stadium features a plastic turf that’s used for college football, but isn’t suitable for a MLS team.
3. Its location will discourage soccer fans from Broward and Palm Beach Counties from attending games. FIU Stadium is 30 minutes south and to the west of Sun Life Stadium. And that’s before taking into consideration all of the traffic congestion and toll booths.
4. Before Miami FC became the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the NASL team played at FIU Stadium. The attendance for some games at the stadium was in the hundreds.
5. No roof, which means there’s no relief from the heavy rainfall or bright sun.
6. The stadium’s facilities in the modular stadium are poor, so if a MLS team was to play at FIU Stadium, a major upgrade to press facilities and corporate boxes would be needed to bring it up to standards of comparable stadiums.
Sun Life Stadium
When Beckham visited South Florida in June to tour different stadiums, he also visited Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. The owner of the NFL team, Stephen Ross, is also rumored to be a co-investor in the Miami team along with Claure and, of course, Beckham.
In the past two years, Sun Life Stadium has hosted several major soccer games featuring attendances of 70,080 for Barcelona vs Chivas, 67,273 for Real Madrid vs Chelsea and 57,748 for AC Milan vs Chelsea — just to name a few.