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Big exhibition crowds in Miami … but does that mean big things for an MLS expansion club?

Nov 18, 2013, 5:31 PM EDT

Brand Beckham and his wealthy investors intend to make soccer a success in South Florida. Getty Images

History has taught supports of the American game that “soccer fans” do not necessarily trip over themselves to join the ranks of “MLS fans.”

So no one should get too geeked over the big crowd that showed up to watch as Brazil took apart Honduras last weekend in Miami. A crowd of 71,124 saw the stylish Samba soccer set beat down the still-growing Central American side, 5-0.

That crowd is significant because it was the second-largest soccer crowd in the United States this year, surpassed only by a crowd of 81,410 outside Dallas for a summer Gold Cup semifinal doubleheader (a pair of matches that involved the United States and Mexico.)

So, good on Miami for that one.

But that international soccer market can be a slippery set – a bit high browed as soccer fans go. Just because the area’s diverse demographic is intrigued by the chance to go see Neymar and his illustrious pals – minus a few injuries, Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari brought a very good squad to South Florida – that hardly means the fans will automatically flock to see the local MLS club on a regular basis.

Not even an MLS team fronted by even more illustrious David Beckham. That will still be about broader market dynamics, about how well the team develops its identity and how wisely it chooses its stadium, branding strategies, market approaches and such.

Still, it’s certainly not bad news that Miami can draw so well, if only for one night. The ongoing evidence that soccer fans do actually inhabit the South Florida area will help provide momentum as Beckham and Co. continue to explore their options.

  1. footballer4ever - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    @ Steve

    I had the pleasure to attend the game at Sunlife Stadium which had an electric feel to it in which Brazilians, Hondurans and neutral football fans wearing their own countries’ national team jerseys or football club jerseys from around the world. It was a magical night , even with the spanking in the second half, but one that football fans crave for. Does that mean a MLS club can expect the same reception? Not quite. The main thing that should be considered is that Miami has football aficionados who will go and pay top dollar for high caliber football matches.

    The previous Fusion Owner had it against him from the beginning when the Fusion were not able to play at the Orange Bowl and moving to Fort Lauderdale, well, you know how that one ended. I managed to go to Fusion games, but that 1 hour drive to a “intimate” high school stadium and the lack of promotion/investment began to take a toll on me.

    Having big pocketed owners who won’t be shy to invest/promote and eventually build their own specific stadium in a logistically viable place will be critical to this second round of MLS football in Miami. Will there be cynical people who think/feel otherwise? Of course. As far as lack of football (soccer) fans in Miami, well, you know that’s not an issue. The issue is how will you gain their trust/money/interest to gain them over and fill up to root for an MLS club. That’s where Beckham/Lebron’s celebrity status along with a Billionaire deep pockets can turn this future franchise into a succesful football club.

    If 71,124 passionate football fans at a nfl stadium does not impress you, just take a look at the vibrant and passionate enviroment enjoyed by Brazilian/Honduras and neutral football fans at Sunlife Stadium.

  2. hildezero - Nov 18, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    Exactly. I agree with you. I’ve been saying that all along. Just because Florida shows up for friendlies, doesn’t mean they’ll show up for MLS games (Miami I’m looking at you). I’m sure that Miami would draw a bigger crowd than before, but I don’t think it would be anything impressive. Even soccer journalists in Florida (particularly Univision and ESPN Deportes [especially them]) have said that having a franchise there won’t get the attention of other fans.

  3. footballer4ever - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    Steve,

    Your points might sound valid up to a certain point, but they are as outdated as the “soccer”-haters who still think noone cares for soccer in the U.S.

    What am I trying to say here? It’s very short-sighted to discount what Beckham and Co. are trying to bring to Miami just because Horowitz failed to make more of the fusion than the FT. Lauderdale HS stadium.

    Sure it’s easier to be a naysayer, (see above example) but if you even take a percentage of those thousands of football fans who go to those big football matches, then you have a base to build on than to have to worry about turning other sports fans into casual or MLS fans. A MLS football club will have the advantage that people dislike the Marlins, dolphins are a bunch of losers/bullies and Panthers, well, ice does not belong in the south. A MLS football club well run and built with its properly located stadium can be the birth and needed growth MLS needs. Call me an optimist, but I prefer to be that than a complete pessimist soccer fan.

  4. andyoursistertoo - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    I think people fail to see the huge Brazilian connection down there in South Florida, Most of those people that went to that game were either from Brazil or had ties, same as Honduras. Its not a good place for soccer franchise, they tried it once before and failed miserably, why would they try again and think otherwise

  5. footballer4ever - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Good thing none of you will be given the option to buy a MLS franchise. You all talk about Miami just like the soccer haters were expecting for MLS to fail and look where we are at 17 years later. It takes people with vision, aside money, to get things going. It’s a shame we, “soccer fans/Eurosnobs” are sometimes our own enemy for the growth of football in the states.

  6. talgrath - Nov 19, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t even know the Sounders existed before they moved to MLS, in fact most of Seattle didn’t know they existed until they became an MLS franchise. Getting an MLS franchise properly off the ground, like most new sports franchises, has more to do with marketing and getting the word out and getting a decent crowd in the seats to get them hooked (and create buzz). An MLS franchise with star-power like Beckham and Lebron James behind it would create major buzz in Miami, that would get butts in seats; if you can then put out a quality team too, I think Miami will get plenty of fans.

  7. footballer4ever - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    @talgrath

    (Applause). Finally someone who can see things in a different light and not join the anti-Miami sentiment bandwagon.

  8. footballer4ever - Nov 21, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Something to think about, Kurt Helin @ Pro Basketball Talk had a post about Lebron James interested to team up with Beckham to bring a MLS franchise to Miami. Not meant to be a knock on you , Steve, but his article sounded a bit more positive or less negative on such idea. That is coming from a basketball guy and most likely not even a soccer fan who tend to be over critical at times.

    Kurt Helin said:

    “The star power of Beckham and LeBron could get this off the ground, if they can find a place to build a stadium and find ways to do all this at reasonable costs. The MLS is not exactly a cash cow — a few teams draw well (the L.A. Galaxy where Beckham played, for one) but it is not universal — but a well run team in the right stadium (which can be used for concerts and other events as well) could.”

    Call it uninformed, naive or inbiased, but his take on this potential venture between a bballer and a footballer is at least less critical with some roo for success.

    Maybe we football/soccer/futbol fans should stop being so hard on ourselves.

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