After a 17-year hiatus, Major League Soccer is finally returning to South Beach.
Miami’s yet-to-be-named soccer franchise was formally announced in front of a raucous crowd Monday. Fittingly, the event featured the dim lighting, bumping music and amped-up atmosphere you’d expect to find at one of Miami’s infamous nightclubs.
This, however, was the re-birth of soccer in southern Florida and could be a preview of what’s to come with the local expansion team.
Miami is notoriously viewed as a difficult sports town. Wins are the name of the game and when the Miami Heat or Miami Dolphins have a down year, we have seen attendance numbers drop dramatically.
At the same time, Miami is known as a socialite town. Sports are more than a game; they are events and productions. This is where the city’s culture could bode well for soccer.
Expansion franchises like Atlanta and Orlando have developed a proven recipe for success in areas that were once believed to be “difficult” to build a soccer team. They have been able to effectively harness the social culture of the community with the product on the pitch.
If football is the equivalent of a backyard BBQ, soccer is the sports-version of happy hour.
That’s why we believe round two in Miami will be different. Where the Miami Fusion struggled to draw fans and create a cohesive culture, the yet-to-be-named Beckham franchise has a lot more to build off of.
Miami as a region showed its potential as a 21st-century soccer powerhouse in late 2017. More than 66,000 people showed up to watch an international friendly between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Then days later the city’s non-MLS team, Miami FC, drew a record 10,415 on a weeknight for a quarterfinal U.S. Open Cup match.
The energy during those matches, as well as the energy in the room during Monday’s announcement event, showed what is possible if the new owners can focus on developing a fan environment that complements the city.