Miami FC is catching fire at the right time of the season, its flames kindled by stacks upon stacks of hundred dollar bills from the bank account of owner Riccardo Silva. In the Spring Season, Miami did not get the formula right, but they quickly adjusted. Learning from your mistakes is a hallmark of success, and Miami FC demonstrated that by moving on from some big name signings who flopped, while going after some of the league’s better players.
Lofty transfer fees and big salaries bolstered the roster with the likes of Poku, Michael Lahoud, Richie Ryan, Gabriel Farfan, and most recently and shockingly, New York Cosmos vice-captain Hunter Freeman. After finishing at the bottom of the table in the Spring Season, Miami FC now trails only the Cosmos in the Fall table.
The turnaround has not only been on the field. Just as importantly, Miami’s attendance has trended upward as well. After debuting to a very respectable crowd of 10,156 for their April 8th opener, Miami saw attendances decline to 1,229 and 1,837 for their last two home matches of the Spring. Their five game Spring average was 3764 across the first five games including that 10,000+ debut, and without it the other four averaged 2,166. Fall attendance is off to a much better start. Miami FC is averaging 6,118 for its first six home matches. In its three matches since August, Miami has averaged 7,928.
“This moment right here, is the most important for us,” said Miami FC coach Alessandro Nesta told the Miami Herald of the club’s on the field resurgence. “We started the year from scratch, everything new, and it didn’t go as planned. But right now my team is ready, I’m ready, and we are pushing for the playoffs.”
As for its off the field momentum, Miami CEO Sean Flynn attributed the success to persistent efforts to reach out to the community. “We continue to introduce our brand to the market, tell the story of who we are, and what we want to be, which is the soccer hub of Miami, the center of our soccer community. This town bleeds soccer, and I think our brand is starting to catch on,” he told the Herald.
Flynn acknowledged that Miami has seen soccer teams fail over the years, but he thinks Miami FC will buck the trend. He told the Miami New Times, “There have been a couple of teams that have come and gone [in Miami], but I don’t know they had the right formula. I think we do now. We have an owner who is very dedicated for the long term. He wants to build something that lasts, that will be around and sustain.”
As Miami FC gathers momentum, the prospect of David Beckham’s MLS team coming to town looms large in the future. Miami FC is not as concerned about an in-market MLS rival as other teams have been. Reports suggested that Minnesota United FC partially made the jump to Major League Soccer out of fear of what impact a Minnesota Vikings owned MLS team would have on their club. “Listen, we were here first, but if they come in, that’s great,” Flynn told the New Times. “I think there will be friendly competition. I think if they come in, this market can handle two teams. I don’t know how they will position themselves as a brand, I have an idea, but I know how we’re going to position ourselves. I think we’re going to position ourselves as a team that lives in the community — a team of the people. We’re going to be the blue-collar team — a team that lives in the neighborhood and represents the 305.”
While Beckham’s project seemingly runs into snag after snag, Flynn plans to keep pushing Miami FC’s first movers advantage. “We’re going to make some changes, which we’ll announce soon, to make the experience even better — for both the players and the fans. So moving into 2017, we’ll have some upgrades. We’re working with our partners here at FIU to turn the stadium into a more modern and better-suited stadium not only for our team, but for FIU’s football team as well.”
The investors behind Miami FC see the North American Soccer League’s model of doing business as an advantage they can press as well. “I prefer, and our owner prefers, the NASL business plan, which gives you a little more control of your destiny,” Flynn said. “The ownership of the player contracts, the control of the brand marks and the logos internationally… restrict the MLS. We create our own destiny; the league doesn’t own our players. We can go out and grow our brand globally.”
For now, Miami FC has the town to themselves, even if they share the TV market with the historic Fort Lauderdale Strikers. As the Strikers and Rayo OKC have struggled from a business perspective this year, Miami FC’s positive momentum shows what can happen when a NASL franchise is backed by a committed, wealthy owner who takes advantage of the league’s business model.
At this rate, fans across the league who jeer “F— the Cosmos”, may have to revise their slogan. Miami FC has poached three players from the Cosmos roster this season, convincing them to take their talents to South Beach. With those moves, Miami FC signaled their intent in the league, like a new inmate punching out the biggest dude in the prison yard. Miami FC is the new bully on the NASL block.