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7 Keys To Success For Strikers In South Florida

Saturday night in South Florida saw Miami FC play its last game. The team next season will be renamed the Strikers, the name that graced one of the most famous soccer institutions in U.S. soccer history, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. But success is far from guaranteed.

A crowd of 1,684 came out to Lockhart Stadium to watch an evenly matched game between Miami FC and Puerto Rico Islanders. The passionate Miami Ultras fans banged their drums and sang their songs throughout the game. And as a fitting tribute, as soon as the whistle blew for the 1-1 draw, the Ultras took down their Miami FC blue and white banners and unfurled the red and yellow colors of the Strikers. Next season, a new dawn will rise on soccer in South Florida.

Saturday’s final game of the season, and of Miami FC’s history, closed another chapter in the history of the game in South Florida. Miami FC joins a long list of teams that have joined the dead pool in South Florida soccer such as Miami Fusion, Miami Toros, Miami Gatos, the different reincarnations of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Miami Sharks and Miami Freedom.

But the big question is whether anything will really change this next time around? There’ll be a new name, new colors, new logo and new players. But in charge will be the same team owner, Traffic Sports. But will they finally make a connection with the soccer fans in South Florida to bring them out in larger numbers to Lockhart throughout the season? My concern is that Traffic Sports doesn’t know or understand the mistakes that have already been made regarding soccer in South Florida and therefore may end up repeating some of them through trial and error.

Rather than adopt a wait and see attitude, I want to share my seven ideas of how soccer can succeed in South Florida with next season’s Strikers:

  1. Share the vision and the plan. It’s vital for South Florida to understand what Traffic’s plan is for the new Strikers. Is the goal to eventually become a Major League Soccer team? Whether it is or not, what is the team’s plan to attract supporters next season? What marketing initiatives are planned? How can soccer fans or people tapped into the soccer community in South Florida help Traffic achieve these goals? It’s important that the local press and soccer community gets to hear or see this plan so we can all work together to make the Strikers a success. Without improved communication or proper coordination, the Strikers will face the same reality that Miami FC faced: Many soccer fans in South Florida didn’t know they existed. It’s harsh but true.
  2. Connect with the soccer decision makers throughout South Florida. The hard work begins now for Traffic Sports, not in February. Traffic needs to spend every day now through next spring on the phone and meeting with the key soccer gatekeepers within South Florida to share their plan and to strategize how the community can work together to achieve success. These gatekeepers will then go into their organizations and networks in South Florida to spread the news, encourage soccer fans to join the cause and to organize. The outreach needs to happen throughout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Traffic needs to organize town hall meetings in each of the counties where they can share their plans and encourage local soccer dignitaries to open their rolodexes. This can not go understated. So far, Traffic Sports has failed to connect with the people in South Florida who will make a difference.
  3. Create a squad with talent and an identity that represents South Florida. It’s difficult for South Florida residents to feel a connection to the team when the nationality of the players don’t represent the area. Out of the 25 man squad, 11 of them are American while the next best represented country is Brazil with six players. For the Strikers to succeed in 2011 and beyond, the team needs to consider having one or more players from countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Chile, Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago, England and other countries. But more importantly, the team needs to make sure that they have quality on the field and not just token players from particular countries. A combination of players from the above countries who are talented would be an important ingredient for success.
  4. Bring back the soccer fans. With the Strikers name, Traffic Sports has a unique opportunity to organize different events to lure the old Strikers fans back to Lockhart Stadium as well as to generate excellent coverage in the local media. A Strikers alumni team against the Fusion alumni would be a wonderful sight to see to bring the fans out. But at the same time, Traffic needs to convince picky soccer fans in South Florida that division two soccer is worth watching. Traffic needs to organize friendlies for the Strikers against high-profile opposition. Traffic also needs to schedule double headers throughout the season to feature a Strikers game followed by two high-profile teams. These games will attract soccer fans in South Florida who have either given up on local professional soccer or who don’t realize they have a team in their own backyard.
  5. Reach out to the tri-county area. South Florida is one of the most untapped soccer markets in the United States. With a population of more than 5 million, the potential to succeed is massive. However both the Miami Fusion and Miami FC failed miserably in not knowing how to market a team in this region of the country. Now with the Strikers, Traffic Sports has an opportunity to launch a team that will be reborn with a new name and identity. But to succeed it needs to attract soccer fans from all three counties, all of which have tens of thousands of kids playing soccer every Saturday morning in parks throughout South Florida. Traffic needs to do a better job of selling soccer to residents from Jupiter to Coral Gables and everything in between.
  6. Connect with soccer fans through other means. While many of the above steps will ensure that people connected to soccer organizations throughout South Florida will hear about the Strikers returning to South Florida, that won’t reach everyone. Traffic needs to spend money to make money and that means a larger marketing budget to advertise in papers, radio, television and the Internet. The web is key. Right now the official Strikers website is pitiful. It hasn’t been updated in months and still has GoDaddy advertising on the page. If Traffic Sports is serious about making the Strikers a success, they need to overhaul the website and build a community online so that no matter where people live in South Florida they can interact and organize on the Strikers website and feel like they belong to a movement.
  7. Be remarkable. The sports market in South Florida has changed considerably since the time when the Strikers were at their zenith. Fickle fans now can choose between the Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers, Marlins and other teams. So to stand out from the crowd and to offer residents something different, Traffic Sports needs to be creative to draw in an audience. Why not let kids in for free all season long as long as they’re accompanied by a parent? Why not offer a “Family Pack” deal that includes tickets plus hot dogs and drinks for a low price? And this is just scratching the surface. There’s so much that the Strikers can do if they put their mind to it.

The Strikers have one of the best locations for a sports team in South Florida. It’s centrally located within driving distance for all three counties. Plus the stadium is just down the street from the main interstate. You couldn’t ask for a better location to make this team a success both on and off the pitch.

But the hard work starts now both for Traffic Sports and the soccer fans in South Florida. To make this a success will require coordination between the club and the community. And based on the track record of previous attempts, it’s going to be an uphill battle. But it’s do-able only if everyone sets their mind to it.

As a post script, there’s been a lot of discussion regarding what the team should be named and there have been several ideas floating around by supporters. Take the poll below and let us know what you’d like the new team to be named.

[polldaddy poll=3871155]

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  1. Kathryn (Another Ultra)

    January 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    I still dream of an MLS team for Miami but as Garber said today – in Ft. Lauderdale – what we needs is a tri-county wide groundswell of support for live soccer. Period. I vote for either Ft. Lauderdale Striker or, next closest, South Florida Strikers. I think naming it after the city will generate more support from the city and city services (good) and make it clear this is a South Florida team in Ft. Lauderdale. After playing in 3 different stadiums, we need to ground this team somewhere. That place is Lockhart- we should own it. I will drive from Miami and many others will drive from Palm Beach and other places. Miamians are rarely ‘Miamians’ as much as they identify with other places. Even those of us who were born here will support the closest thing we have – and for now, that means supporting Traffic.
    Not blindly, but constructively, collaboratively and always with our eyes on the prize of a local team winning games in a sold-out stadium in a competitive league.
    Thanks for such a spot on piece.

    • The Gaffer

      January 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks Kathryn for the kind words. I’m glad you were there today, as I was. Were you the blonde who so got up in the back and so eloquently spoke about the stadium dilemma?

      The Gaffer

  2. David

    November 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Answer is easy. The south Florida Strikers

  3. Andre

    November 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Answer is easy. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers. If it hasn’t been done so already, upgrade Lockhart Stadium to make it 20 to 25,000. I totally agree with Striker Faithful. The team would give that city its own team to identify with. However, if they play outside Ft Lauderdale, then go with South Florida. Don’t just call them Strikers FC. This Euro-brand naming has gone too far. In North America, it’s Team Location, Team Name.
    As for the kits, I would simply go back to the horizontal red and yellow striped shirts with the black shorts as the primary. Have a viable shirt sponsor. It’s also important to have an updated traditional soccer crest that incorporates the best elements of the Strikers’ brand. I am very hopeful that one day soon, we will see both the Ft Lauderdale Strikers and the TB Rowdies(keep negotiating with Classic Ink, boys) in MLS. I am a longtime Vancouver Whitecaps fan. To see my team play both its arch-rivals, the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers in MLS next year is going to be something extremely special for the league. A reborn Strikers-Rowdies MLS rivalry will be a huge added bonus.

  4. Pedro

    October 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    South Florida Sssssstrikers.

  5. nasl

    October 18, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Playing at Lockhart, it has to be Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. The other options are idiotic.

    And get over the idea of playing in Miami; Miami has been tried repeatedly, and has failed every time, whereas the only success pro soccer has ever had in South Florida has been in Ft. Lauderdale. Even the pitiful numbers that Miami FC have been drawing at Lockhart, are much, much better than the handful of fans who showed up for home games in Miami.

    Now I haven’t been following the news so what is the status of Lockhart? Did Traffic get control, or are they still planning to build that waterslide through part of the stadium, or what?

  6. Alistair

    October 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    I would go with FL Strikers. It has a good name to it.

  7. sergio lima

    October 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Oh, Gaffer, you should know what the Brazilians know and talk about Traffic Sports and the Owner J.Avilla. They never built anything to last. That is not in their core business values. They make most of their money by bringing unknown players to big teams, pushing everyone they can to mae them play as strtrs, increasing ther value in the process and then sending the player to Europe with huge profits. Nobody likes the way J.Avilla does business behnd closed doors. Nobody likes him and his company. I am pretty sure they are just using this team like the other small ones they have as partners in Brasil, this way, they don’t have to depend on anybody to negotiate their players.

    • sergio lima

      October 7, 2010 at 7:49 am

      My keyboard is eatng caracters. Sorry about that.

  8. Jose

    October 6, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Strikers FC and MLS sounds good. Make it Happen Traffic Sports.

  9. Jack

    October 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Strikers FC has the best ring to it.

  10. Striker Faithful

    October 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I agree with the article’s points most especially the last three. In my opinion, if the Strikers want to appeal to the Miami crowd then change the stadium to somewhere in the city of Miami, not at Lockhart, if they want to stay at Lockhart then call it Ft.Lauderdale Strikers/Strikers FC because it will make the city of Ft.Lauderdale have their own historic team to support and this will draw more fans from Ft.Lauderdale who don’t feel identified with the “Miami” name. If it’s South Florida in general then Strikers FC is the better option. They should promote more in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach also because after all the driving distance is the same from metro Miami to Ft. Lauderdale (40 minutes). If next year we have at least 4,000/5,000 attendance per game then I’m definitely sure MLS will take note of the rapid change in attendance. Hopefully the Strikers kit will be provided by Adidas, because that is another important factor believe it or not.

  11. Linda

    October 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Yes to Strikers FC

  12. Charles

    October 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Would be great to add the Strikers back in the mix !!

    My favorite Sounders memory was the OT goal against FT Lauderdale to put them in the championship.
    About 50k ( if I remember right ) in the old Kingdome. We were in the 300 level, even with the goal.

    Think that QWest is loud and the turf sucks? It had nothing on that Kingdome cement and the noice raining down on it.

  13. Andy

    October 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I agree with you xcat Traffic doesn’t cares. They have shown the past 4 years that they just don’t know what they are doing. They are killing the market and the fans. Instead of going to the MLS they are happy in a second division league.

  14. xcat

    October 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Great suggestions, and if this plan was followed, I’m sure there’d be success.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Traffic really cares..

  15. Alberto

    October 5, 2010 at 10:16 am

    South Florida Strikers or Strikers FC. We do want MLS in South Florida.

  16. pedro

    October 5, 2010 at 10:13 am


  17. I am the Law!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Very Nice! I can do nothing more than offer my undieing support for this, the only South Florida professional soccer team. Fort Lauderdale Strikers is the way to go! We need to get the word out to all the pubs, club teams, youth leagues, and general sports lover. I’m all for MLS, lets do everything we can to get it here. As a part of everything we can do to get MLS here lets do everything we can to win the NASL Championship. All the way next year!!

  18. Giggsy

    October 4, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    two straight seasons of less thank 1200 a game? let’s just say nobody in MLS is holding their breath. wake us up when you have averaged 8K+ for 3 seasons in a row … until then NO MLS FOR YOU!

    • Miami Ultra

      October 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm

      Ask Toronto how much D2 attendance matters when it comes to MLS.

      Anyway, great points Gaffer. Hopefully better things are to come with the new Strikers and it will revitalize support for local soccer in South Florida.

      And for the record Fort Lauderdale Strikers is the way to go. South Florida Strikers is a begrudgingly acceptable name, but if they really want to do it right Fort Lauderdale is where it’s at.

  19. Kyle (Train Wreck) Kaly

    October 4, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    SPOT ON! I can’t say much, but Traffic is FINALLY attempting to get it right. They are making moves to not lose the GOOD talent they have and are dumping off the bums that couldn’t perform. Also, the FT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS NEEDS TO BE CHOSEN FOR THE NAME. So Fla is already owned and plays in the WPSL, FC Strikers is a copout, and Strikers 11 was a laughing stock. If they can market the team well and GET SPONSORS they could actually do something good this year. I doubt we will fill the stands or even half, but 7,000 could ligitimately happen if everything falls into place.

  20. Uncle Ed

    October 4, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Great piece Gaffer!
    I hope the folks at Traffic will read this.
    The upper management at Traffic should concentrate on their own business and let someone who knows about the South Florida Soccer Market run the team.
    They have the opportunity to succeed with the Strikers name if they do this right and if they do it right they can eventually move this team up to MLS which is the only way they will ever get 10,000 plus.
    Div 2 is a hard sell but they can lay the foundation for great things to come.

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