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The Return Of Pro Soccer In Tampa Bay Is Bright

If you have listened to my latest show on the Feuerstein’s Fire Podcast, you heard former MLS Talk Podcast host & writer Kartik Krishnaiyer discuss about the positives that are being done in the Tampa Bay area. There is no question that professional soccer has grown in the Central West end of the State of Florida and people were hungry once the Tampa Bay Mutiny was contracted from Major League Soccer.

Ever since this new version of the Tampa Bay Rowdies has returned in the USL Conference and will move to the NASL next year, the people of Tampa Bay were very excited to get their new season underway. But while their ownership group is committed to make this product a winning one, there has been a bit of a stumbling block when it comes to building their own stadium. But for the time being they are using the spring training home of the New York Yankees and the home of their Single A affiliate of the Florida State League, Tampa Yankees.

Amazingly the use of this facility was given permission by and also a member of the ownership group is Hank Steinbrenner. That baseball family who owns the 27time Baseball champion New York Yankees has allowed this new version of the Rowdies to use the stadium named after his father George Steinbrenner and so far the returns have been extremely positive.

The club sold out their home opener against the Austin Aztex & of course the Floridian Derby has resurfaced this time against Miami FC. That has been another success with the NASL as they have tried to find a way to make the game exciting again within the state of Florida which has been missing it for a good while.

Kartik was interviewed by Nick Murray from the Tampa Tribune and inquired about if this is what he and the NASL we’re expecting from the Tampa Community. “Yes. I’m a believer.” Said Krishnaiyer, “and this goes back to my background covering the sport, that Tampa is one of the best soccer markets in the United States, I’ve always felt that way. Youth Soccer is stronger here than just about anywhere else in the country and the interest in the sport internationally and in the old NASL is stronger in the Tampa Bay Area than just about anywhere else in the country.”

Krishnaiyer has also mentioned that the former players of the original NASL Rowdies have remained in the Tampa Bay area to help out with the youth game and let’s not forget that old NASL rivalry between the original Rowdies and the New York Cosmos was in fact the best during that era. I have always felt bad for the Tampa Bay area when the Mutiny were contracted from Major League Soccer.

In the early years of MLS I traveled to Tampa and saw the MetroStars play on the road against the Mutiny. The Old Sombrero as Chris Berman called it was filled as the local fans came to see their side play. Dedicated supporters chanting and singing for their side, but when Raymond James Stadium was built as a new home for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you had a funny feeling that the game was going to get pushed out. But these are happier times for soccer fans in the Tampa Bay area.

The return of the Rowdies has become a celebration and hopefully down the road they will get a new stadium and if this success continues throughout the years then there could be a possible form of promotion to MLS. But for right now, let’s sit back, relax and enjoy the fun.

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  1. Fojo Fojo

    October 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I think Tampa should have a team. But not a retread NASL team with
    corny, 1970s, American rugy-striped kits. An elegant but rowdy club
    with amazing new colors and full adidas kits, as mandated by the
    MLS. The new name should be something about pirates, as that is the
    area’s cool but nasty history — translates well to sport and
    footy. But not the Mutiny and not some high-tech bat as a mascot.
    What was that all about? Or maybe something about sharks, given
    Tampa has a few. Anyhoo, check out what Portland has done: created
    a little slice of Yurp right in their own back yard. Cool, rehabbed
    stadium with Euro rain/sun roofs. Tons of great sponsors. A kit
    sponsor. A local stadium sponsor. Fans with as many cool,
    English-style songs as Man United. Portland did it right, right out
    of the box: Oh, yeah, and a bitter
    rival, in their first season, no less:
    Tampa can easily do the same, but Timber-style management think is
    required. Given there is a HUGE hole in the MLS map that stretches
    from St. Louis to Charlotte to Miami to New Orleans, Tampa is a
    great choice for a Southern team in the MLS.

  2. @SteveM

    May 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    IF it weren’t for Ft. Lauderdale and their soccer history the Fusion would be a failure as well as Miami FC. The only reason Miami FC is drawing a 1,000 fans it’s because they play in Ft. Lauderdale. Last year they played in Miami only 380 people came. look it up that’s the FACT.

    • Steve M.

      May 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      ah, the Miami FC argument. Miami FC is no MLS. Aside from the fact that rarely you see any kind of promotion from them. I think most here found out about them this past year as the talk of MLS possibly coming here and making a business deal with Barcelona FC started to gain attention. Thats when people started mentioning Miami FC, because we could retain that name, maybe the team colors and players. They’ve been here since 2006 (only 4 years). Not the way to expand a soccer team. MLS brings more media attention and a higher level of soccer. Miami FC does not offer that. When you see Seattle for example, theyre different. They have soccer roots with the Sounders since the 70’s. The transition to MLS was a huge success thanks to that. Miami FC–since 2006, lack of promotions. Ft Lauderdale had the Strikers, but then again the team’s name is Miami FC and have just recently played there. In all, theres no stability here. not a good way to expand a team in a city where theres no soccer history (locally). Even the Fusion started doing well attendance-wise playing at Lockhart Stadium the year before MLS cut them. and the numbers were much better than some teams currently have at the moment. Weather its reviving the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, or expanding in Miami, MLS has to do it the right way, if we ever get that chance.

  3. Steve M

    May 19, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Just to clarify, Miami doesnt have an NHL team. The Florida Panthers are located to cater the entire S. Florida region (just google location)…hence “FLORIDA” Panthers. Likewise for the MLB and the Marlins. Though the Marlins will eventually be in Miami. Until then, i wouldnt tie those 2 franchises solely to Miami. the only real Miami pro-teams are the Dolphins and Heat. The Miami market is complex. Though we do have a large hispanic population (more than %60 of the pop.), not every hispanic loves the same sport. Generally, hispanics from the Caribbean like baseball, the ones from S. America are into soccer. from C. America, Hondurans are more into soccer, while Nicaraguans are more into baseball etc. We do have mexicans here but theyre not the majority compared to the southwest of the country. and then of course 2nd or 3rd generation of Hispanic-Americans who also start to follow NFL and NBA.

    Its also true that S.Florida is one of the top markets in the USA as far as TV ratings regarding soccer (mostly foreign competitions i think). MLS screwed up when they killed the Miami Fusion so pre-maturely. Hopefully they expand in Miami next time and put the team in an actual location in Miami instead of Ft.Lauderdale like they did with the Fusion.

    • Clayton

      May 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm

      So you claim the Dolphins, but say the Marlins aren’t in Miami? They play in the same stadium! You can’t pick and choose which teams you consider Miami. And if all those teams couldn’t get a stadium near Miami, what makes you think an MLS team could??

      If SOUTH FLORIDA got an MLS team, they would most likely play in either FIU’s or FAU’s football stadium, which is in the area with all the other sports teams that get crap attendance. South Florida is a crap sports market…always has been.

      • Steve M.

        May 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm


        Im not denying S. Florida is a crap sports market. I know fans are very fickle here. We have a transient population. Most people here are from somewhere else, either from another city (New York most notably) or from another country. Whatever the reasons may be, i agree with you.

        The Dolphins play in the same stadium as the Marlins, yes, but keep in mind they’ve been around since the 60’s and played in Miami’s Orange Bowl till the late 80’s. They have established themselves as S. Florida’s only NFL team for decades and have a lot of tradition. Even though the stadium was built in the middle of no where, fans will continue to flock. The Marlins, unfortunately, have been a roller coaster ride since its inception in 1993 with ownership issues and the lease with a football size stadium. Things might start to stabilize for them now that they have their own stadium smak in the middle of the city. So MLB was able to get a stadium in Miami after all. but i digress. I cant speak for hockey. I dont know if NHL was targeting Miami specifically or just wanted a centralized location for all of S. Florida. So yes, i do claim Dolphins and Heat (and now Marlins) as Miami’s real pro-teams. So many people and the media are quick to brush over any team in this region as Miami’s own. As for MLS, we were willing to use FIUs stadium to bring over a team, backed with a willing owner to bring pro soccer to Miami. I dont count the Fusion. The few years they were here they played in Ft. Lauderdale. Its just not feasible for most fans to travel north 25-30 miles every game. its even farther if you live in the southern part Miami-Dade county.

  4. WSW

    May 13, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    The problem with Miami is you have a whole bunch of diverse immigrants from South America, Central America, Caribbean, etc…and they all support their home teams. and even if they had a MLS team they would be divided on the name/ownership be a team from Brazil, Colombia,Cuba, Costa Rica etc…Miami doesn’t support LOCAL soccer. Fusion played in Ft. Lauderdale and they didn’t alienate the non-hispanic crowd like Traffic/Miami FC.

    BTW Miami ultra fan—- Mexicans are the the most predominant group in the southwest so don’t even compare the southwest to Miami, it makes you look like a idiot.

  5. Joseph

    May 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Hey Really? I’m pro Tampa in this debate but if MLS doesn’t improve its standing on Mexivision as you refer to it, the league is doomed to second tier status. Miami, Atlanta, NYC, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, those are the markets that need to be looked at. Tampa also. But we must increase the rights fees and tv numbers on those networks. Besides, Miami/Ft Lauderdale is usually among the top english language tv markets for usa games, so that debunks your “go back” argument. Let’s try and not make the world game racist please.

    • Really?

      May 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm

      How would it be doomed to second tier status? I’m pretty sure that the majority of NFL, MLB, and NHL games are on English as a first language channels, correct?

      Your thinking is flawed when it comes to where the MLS needs to look for new franchises. I don’t know if you live in the Tampa Bay area but the reason that we don’t sell out more Bucs, Rays, and Bolts games is due to the incredible number of transplant “fans” from other areas of the country. You will not find another major sports market in the country that has as many fans sporting the Away team colors as you do here in Tampa Bay. This is the main reason that a Soccer franchise (be it Div2 or MLS) will be more successful in Tampa.

      I’m not being racist at all. Soccer is the worlds game and has grown into the Nationalistic sport it is today. England thinks their league is the best, Spain thinks their league is the best, Italy thinks their league is the best, Germany thinks their league is the best, all the way down to our growing population of Hispanic residents thinking their league is superior to the MLS. In their Hispanic blood (similar to the blood of a Cleveland Fan) they will pass down the love and traditions of their Home Town team from wherever they originated.

      As for your suggestions on “markets that need to be looked at”, I’m just going to throw out a guess that you said “Miami, Atlanta, NYC, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego” due to the large population of Hispanics that populate these cities, am I right? Of the ones you named I can maybe agree on ATL and NYC, but not really.

      From what I have seen from Seattle these past 2 years is that you need a strong FAN base that is created by strong marketing from the Front Office and a quality product being put out on the pitch. I don’t see their stands filled to 30k+ every home game with only Hispanics.

      And in response to “Miami/Ft Lauderdale is usually among the top english language tv markets for usa games”, that is just a stupid claim. Please find me ANY actual information to back that. Maybe it’s because all the Hipanic people and others from the CONCACAF region are rooting for the team playing AGAINST the USA?

      Can you throw a intelligent response back my way?

  6. Miami Ultra

    May 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Funny how Tampa fans are bashing Miami now that they have their new Rowdies team. They seem to forget that the Fusion were basically on par with the Mutiny in terms of MLS attendance. Both were poor draws, but both teams were screwed in the end and didn’t really deserve to be disbanded, considered several other teams’ attendances were and still are in the same low range.

    If we had the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers in MLS in the late 90s, as opposed to the Munity and Fusion, we’d probably still have our teams. Both cities deserve a second chance in MLS, with teams that embrace their soccer history rather than deny it.

    I will say kudos to the new FCTB ownership group. They are doing things right and that’s why they were able to get 8K to a baseball stadium this past Saturday.

  7. Mark

    May 13, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I think Tampa is a weak market for big time sports. The Bucs struggled until they got good, the Mutiny folded, heck the Devil Rays were totally off the radar until 2008 after being in existence over 10 years.

    Miami and Atlanta bring more ethnic fans, better Hispanic TV which helps Univision and ultimately more fans if MLS ever becomes a top league.

    MLS needs both Miami and Atlanta and does not need Tampa Bay again.

    If we expand to 22, NYC2, Miami and Atlanta need to be the expansion cities even if attendance struggles. The bump in TV numbers would be well worth it.

    • Really?

      May 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm

      You sir are a moron. Bump in TV numbers? More ethnic fans? BS!

      Let me get this straight… you want a team in Miami playing in front of an empty stadium with all the Hispanic fans sitting at home watching on Mexivision complaining about how much the MLS cannot compare to their club “back home” (well then GO BACK!)?

      As for bashing the following of our Tampa teams, you should feel free to educate yourself with some actual facts. I have posted the links to NFL, MLB, and NHL attendance numbers so you can see that Tampa beats and has beaten Miami in attendace numbers. Miami has had slightly better numbers in the NFL in recent years due to the Bucs rebuilding but consistently lose in the MLB and NHL numbers. Congrats on ONLY attracting an average of 4500 more fans last season when the Bucs couldn’t win all year.


  8. HonestHan

    May 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Congrats to Tampa Rowdies and the fans. 8k+ is awesome. But I also agree that until they play a few more games, we can’t say that its a success. Nestor and his group have put a lot of money into this and will put a lot more when they finally build their stadium. Rowdies need to keep up 8k+ figures to justify it.

    And MLS to Tampa will only happen when a investor is found. Atlanta and Miami have big money guys interested. Heck even NYC is getting mentioned because they too have a big money person interested. Until the Glazers or Steinbrenners say they want a MLS team in Tampa, you will continue to be left behind in the conversation.

  9. dan

    May 12, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    For the people attacking Tampa Bay for the field they play on and the seats is funny. And if this is true then it shows that the Rowdies have a strong following and thats says alot. Miami has proven nothing but that it sucks at supporting teams.

  10. Ian

    May 12, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Yankees field is AWFUL for soccer: the seating is bad, 1/4 of the field is covered in clay and the field is ridiculously narrow and short, making it practically unplayeable. The Rowdies should get out of there after this season!!!
    That being said, the support for a professional soccer team in Tampa is obvious for everyone to see. Let’s establish the team as a powerhouse in division 2, and we’ll go from there…
    Go Rowdies!

    • Daniel Feuerstein

      May 14, 2010 at 1:42 am

      Ian. Tells us where the new Rowdies should go if they need to get out of Steinbrenner Field a.s.a.p.? The ownership is not going to give the Glazer’s a single penny of rent across the street on Dale Mabry Dr.

      The U of South Florida Soccer Field doesn’t have alot of seats. So when the Rowdies do build their new stadium or if it does get built, they are staying at Steinbrenner Field Rent Free. So stop making stupid comments about getting out of Steinbrenner Field right now and find a better place, when at the moment they should stay put.

      • Tony

        May 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

        The Blogger calling folks an idiot is an embarassment to the Blogger. Your sophomoric tendencies are ridiculous.

        Those that can’t do, coach, those that really are idiots, blog.

  11. jason

    May 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I dont think Tampa is even on the list of expanstion teams right now for MLS..there best hope might be a promotion/relegation system. Where NASL becoms MLS2,

  12. WSW

    May 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Tampa is the best market in the South, it’s funny how some are attacking Tampa because they draw 8k for home-opener, but yet say nothing about the consistent failure in Miami. Garber will not risk a franchise to a city that doesn’t support soccer. This is not 2001 but 2010. It’s a new era in Tampa and with the help of the Steinbrenner’s don’t count us out for MLS.

    Go Rowdies.

  13. Nevets

    May 12, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I do wonder how many people will keep showing up to a configuration like this, with almost no quality seats?

  14. Rhett

    May 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I agree. Miami should be nowhere near MLS. USSF D-2 may be a minor league in many cities while MLS is a major league (case in point, Seattle which went from 5k to 35 k by jumping leagues) but Miami considers MLS, minor league and USSF D-2 like amatuer or semi pro stuff. They want a Premier League or La Liga team. Sorry but those leagues aren’t coming to the USA anytime soon. If they did expand, I think they’d go to Asia first anyhow.

  15. tbpirate

    May 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    It is great to see pro soccer back in the Bay Area. This has always been the strongest market for soccer in the South.

    The fans will support it but they do need a proper field. The current size just is 100 long and 70 wide. They can’t hold any international matches at Legends Field. Here’s to a long success the to the new Rowdies, a new proper stadium and promotion to MLS!

  16. Clayton

    May 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for the attention on Tampa as a great soccer market. It’s really annoying to hear Garber talk about putting a team in the Southeast and mentioning Miami and not Tampa, considering the Tampa-Miami game in Ft. Lauderdale had as many Tampa fans there as Miami fans. I personally think Miami is hopeless as a sports market in general, and it has been proven time and again. Unless their team is the best in the league that year, no one seems to care.

    Also wanted to mention that they sold out the opening game in Tampa on Saturday with 8,082 in attendance. I didn’t see that mentioned in the article.

    • Daniel Feuerstein

      May 14, 2010 at 1:58 am

      Clayton, it’s not a problem. To be honest with you, it doesn’t matter if the Rowdies came back or if the Mutiny died. I know that the Tampa Bay area can support a club. I felt bad for everyone in Tampa when the contraction happened and I had a bad feeling that Raymond James Stadium just didn’t fit for the game at all.

      Also I blame the Glazer’s for rushing to England to purchase Man Utd and not saving the Mutiny in their own backyard. But I am glad that the Steinbrenner family is involved with this new pro side.

  17. Jason

    May 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    If you weren’t an idiot, you’d know of the Steinbrenner family’s support of soccer and the elder Steinbrenner’s longtime respect for the original Rowdies’ organization.

    And, oh, by the way, how about we wait until FC Tampa Bay has played, oh, I don’t know, a half a dozen or more home games before we say they’ve been “embraced locally?”

    • Clayton

      May 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      Dude, this is minor league soccer in America. I think drawing an 8,000 person sellout and having one of the buildings downtown lit up in the team’s colors would qualify as being “embraced locally”.

    • Daniel Feuerstein

      May 14, 2010 at 1:50 am

      Jason. The only idiot is you because I have to inform the people that are not familiar with the area of Tampa and my own personal experience of seeing the Mutiny in early MLS that the area does support the game.

      You are an idiot because you don’t know that I have been talking with the NASL about what’s going on with the new Rowdies and I was able to get some information.

      You are an idiot because what you don’t know about me is that I am a New York Yankees fan. I’m from the Bronx, NY. I already know about how well the Steinbrenner family has done both up here and in the Tampa, Florida community. I too have friends in Tampa. But then again you don’t know that, because you have to be an ass about it.

      Do me a favor please. Before you assume I don’t know the situation or the area, ask yourself this. Aren’t you happy that I wrote this article about this new pro side and taking on the Rowdies name. People are happy again & I hope they will get their new stadium.

      • Jason

        September 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm

        So how’s it working out for you now, genius?

        How’s the big rebirth of the Rowdies working out? They’ve sucked on the field and can’t draw. Name, schmame.

        And, yes, you’re an idiot.

  18. RTM

    May 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Part of the success is doing it right. The Mutiny drew okay at first but RJS was too big for the sport. Steinbrenner is the right size and unlike the Mutiny who ran from the Rowdies legacy, FC Tampa has embraced it, even using the same colors and the same chants, etc. While I agree with the author that Tampa is a good market, the Rowdies name makes it an even better market. A team called the Tampa Bay Soccers or Kicks or Mutiny would not be nearly as successful nor would they be embraced locally like the Rowdies.

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