Expansion Update: Miami

becksAs we discussed yesterday, expansion is in the air and Atlanta is a leading contender for one of the next round of expansion.  Orlando, Miami & Minnesota are also among the possible expansion destinations.  Orlando seems the furthest along on the stadium front, despite some recent setbacks in the effort.

Miami has long been considered a possible destination for Major League Soccer, but those talks had died down until some recent suggestions that David Beckham is looking to locate a franchise there and Dolphins owner Steve Ross is looking for a soccer franchise.  Recall that Barcelona was rumored to have interest in a Miami based MLS franchise.  The Spanish powerhouse combined with Marcelo Claure and Florida International University to  submit a bid to bring MLS back to South Florida.  As MLS fans well know, the Miami Fusion entered the League as an expansion team in 1998 and were contracted just four years later.  That background, combined with South Florida’s rather weak history of supporting its teams (Florida Marlins anyone?), has lead many to scoff at any move back to the Miami area.  Yet recent reports suggests that MLS Miami is a fait acompli.

The question for MLS is can a franchise survive in South Florida.  As we have said before, the idea of 9,000 fans snoozing through Sunday afternoon game in 110 degree Miami August heat, is a nightmare scenario for supporters of the League.  Would the popularity of top-level international football translate into numbers for MLS?

There are three levels of soccer fans in the US.  There are the MLS fans who cheer on their local team and their national team.  There are the “Euro” fans who follow the big European teams (or South American teams) and their national teams, but have little interest in MLS.  Finally, there are the “event” fans, who get caught up in the hype of a big event and/or will follow the US in any sporting event. The first group is small (but growing), and these are the fans that MLS needs to capture, especially in a market like South Florida, where soccer is king, but MLS is not.

 

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