David Beckham’s much anticipated Miami MLS team cannot hope to be all things to all people. In a fickle sports market whose propensity for failing soccer franchises and under-appreciated sporting events of every stripe, the only way to go might be a hyper-local approach and Latino-centric approach.
David Beckham is a global superstar and no doubt is counting on “Brand Beckham” to elevate the relevance and prominence of the new team across the globe. However, that will do little if anything to sell tickets locally.
What has become obvious is that Beckham and his partners in this venture want the team to have a strong Miami identity, essentially displacing those fans in Broward and Palm Beach counties that have created the backbone for any local Americanized soccer entity in the past. And that is quite alright if Beckham does things the way he now needs to.
With the decision to jump in bed with Miami-Dade County and the idea of “Miami,” which is more a state of mind than anything tangible, the side should completely avoid the American soccer market. Those interested in MLS in the southeast Florida region will gravitate to the club anyway, and those already committed to support the second-division Fort Lauderdale Strikers who play 20 miles up I-95 will remain with their team. The support for the Fort Lauderdale club is largely Yankee (non-native Floridians who have moved from other parts of the country) and Northern European Ex-Pat (British, Dutch and German). And that demographic can be safely avoided for the new MLS team.
In the South Florida metropolitan area, the population is 5.7 million, two million of whom are Hispanic. In a recent poll of Americans age 12-24, ESPN found that soccer was the second most favorite sport. Only NFL was more popular. Among young Hispanic Americans, soccer was number one.
In the United States, the growth of the Hispanic American population has exploded from 14.6 million in 1980 to nearly 52 million in 2011. The Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple from 2011 to 2050 to 132 million. By 2042, minorities will be the majority in the United States.
Today, the third largest Hispanic American population is clustered in and around Miami-Dade County (see graphic below). Currently, the closest MLS team to South Florida is 1,000 miles away in Washington, DC, so the southeastern US is a huge area of the Hispanic population that is currently untapped.