The NASL’s Miami FC will officially begin its second year of existence on Saturday, March 25th as it takes on North Carolina FC at 7:30 PM from WakeMed Soccer Park. It might only be Miami’s second calendar year on the pitch, but this franchise has sure experienced quite a bit.
Your favorite – and only – soccer franchise over here in the deep south has had the opportunity (or burden, depending on how you look at it) to be a part of the North American Soccer League; by the way, in case I wasn’t blatant enough, that was definitely a shot at Beckham United. The evolution of Miami FC, even in its infancy, has been one of many different chapters and has caught my attention.
Chapter 1: The Beginning
A franchise created amidst the impending emergence of an MLS expansion spearheaded by one of the sports’ biggest global icons (David Beckham), Miami began its quest long before the eventual opener that took place on April 2nd, 2016. Part-owner Riccardo Silva teamed up with Italian soccer royalty to start a franchise that would compete in the NASL (Division II as per USSF). Paolo Maldini and company managed to lure in fellow Italian superstar defender Alessandro Nesta to lead the squad on the field. The excitement was building as Miami would have a professional football club to call their own.
If one were so inclined, the timing and arrival of Miami FC can be viewed as either a negative or a positive. Much like in any other sport, the die-hards will always know. I’m referring to the hardcore fans, the dedicated supporters of a faction that would provide the very product they longed to have in their own backyard. Dade Brigade (official Miami FC supporters group) and other dedicated fans were knowledgeable enough to follow the creation of one soccer entity determined to take the field, and another stuck in neutral destined to stall its potential audience into indifference. However, many casual and ill-informed prospective crowd members still related Miami FC with Beckham United’s hopeful MLS expansion and was a great source of confusion. Let’s face it, marketing and advertising campaigns are mostly for the aforementioned demographic, the people whose minds can be persuaded because attending a soccer match was not their original plan; indeed, the general population in a city such as Miami are the ones that can be swayed to truly pack the stands. Well, it was absolutely no coincidence that Miami FC thrived.
Chapter 2: The Rise
The rise in popularity and organizational quality of Miami FC was not one of happenstance. As someone fortunate enough to experience a very small percentage of the inner workings, believe you me, this program is top-notch. The local soccer team would capitalize on a market thirsty for its product and flourish in the process. Honestly, I cannot say enough about the campaigns and results this franchise was able to achieve over the course of one year. Miami FC plays its home games in Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium. By no means a site replete with fans at all times, perhaps Miami FC’s biggest testament of success can be attached to the growing number of bodies filling up the stands. Through creative promotions such as beer nights or themed cuisine, and fun giveaways (i.e. Miami FC sugar skull shirts or Poku bobbleheads) the South Florida crowd began to invest in the local team and the support was palpable. I was present at the time, and I remain as impressed now as I was then, but an infant Division II soccer team drawing 6,500 plus fans on a random Wednesday night is not something I was expecting. You go, Miami FC.
It was more than random luck that the play on the field began to improve as well. I wholeheartedly believe this organization has the prowess to thrive even in times of losing, but everybody loves a winner. At one point, as the Fall Season of the NASL calendar unfolded, Miami had itself a little roll with 6 undefeated games and entrenched themselves into the playoff picture, destined to create some distance from the less successful Spring Season. The boys in orange and blue would fall just shy of the post-season as they finished 5th in the Fall Standings, hardly something to be upset about considering the turnaround and the improvement the squad had shown.
Chapter 3: The Off-Season
A tumultuous off-season was endured by Miami FC. In a world (or league) where Minnesota United FC exited stage left to ascend to the MLS, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC jumped ship to the USL, the possible folding of the Jacksonville Armada FC and New York Cosmos, and a decision was pending on the fate of the NASL, Miami’s triumphant first season meant very little as they were reduced to mere spectators weathering the storm. The USSF delayed its decision as it determined the fate of the lower soccer tiers in North America and the future of the teams in them. The ruling eventually came down to grant both the NASL and USL (former Division III) provisional Division II status as the 2017 seasons play out. The NASL is determined to meet the requirements and responsibilities of a Division II league and is currently pursuing further expansions. This means, at least for now, that we can all move on with our lives and focus on the actual games taking place forthcoming.
— The Miami FC (@TheMiamiFC) October 30, 2016
Chapter 4: The Future
Season 2. The sequel. The continuation. Miami FC begins their campaign looking to expand structurally and build upon the rock solid base they laid down last year. We have come full circle to bring up the beginning of the 2017 season once again. Miami has altered and refined its roster. Head Coach Nesta takes a full year of experience, one which included Coach Of The Year consideration for his over-achieving Fall Season squad, into the upcoming schedule. The renovated facilities on their home field will now feature an upgraded turf to replace the much maligned turf it previously had. The league is set, the schedule is laid out, the fans are anxious, and the team is poised to have a sophomore year filled with success. Collectively, all parties involved are ready for some Miami FC football.
— The Miami FC (@TheMiamiFC) March 21, 2017