When I told my friends I was attending a Miami FC soccer game Saturday night, I got responses like this: “You mean Beckham’s team?”
If you tell that to the people at Miami FC, they will most likely give you a smirk and say, “Just a little friendly competition.”
It’s true – Miami FC is not Beckham’s soccer team. But that might just be a good thing.
According to its official website, Miami FC is “Miami’s sole professional soccer club, beginning to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 2016.” But if you ask the team's CEO, Sean Flynn, Miami FC is so much more than just a professional soccer team (which is, by the way, now ranked fourth in its league). Rather, Miami FC is a soccer club created by and for the people of Miami.
“Our goal ultimately is to be the hub of soccer in Miami,” Flynn says. “We want to be involved in all components of the sport throughout this community. And we want to be a team of the community, a team of the people, a team that lives in the neighborhood. We want to go out and be good neighbors. Our goal is to spread our brand and be involved as much as we can in soccer.”
And for a team that strives to embody the essence of Miami, what better place to call home base than Florida International University? Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium is the home venue for Miami FC and is situated right in the heart of Miami-Dade, off SW Eighth Street.
“If you look around at the surrounding area and its neighborhoods, this is really positioned geographically in a great spot for us,” says Flynn, “because just this neighborhood alone, plus Doral, are areas that are packed with soccer fans.”
Soccer is debatably the world’s most popular sport. Yet even in the cultural melting pot that is Miami, which includes hundreds of thousands of soccer fans from South America, Central America, and Europe, soccer has never taken off in Miami.
“There have been a couple of teams that have come and gone [in Miami], but I don’t know they had the right formula,” Flynn says. “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.”
That's why Miami FC aims to connect to these soccer fans in hopes they can be just as proud of their home team as they are of their new local team. “I believe this town is truly a fútbol town and not a football town,” Flynn says. “So I think the passion, the heart, and the beat of Miami is in this sport. This is the sport where you see the real pride of Miami and the real passion from the people. Whether it is for their heritage, their nationality or country of origin, or for wherever they lived prior to this, plus we’re giving them the opportunity now to spread that passion to a local team. So this city, this community, is really a soccer town.”
So what exactly is the difference between Miami FC and Beckham's team? A big one, it turns out – Miami FC is in the North American Soccer League (NASL), and Beckham’s team (which we might not even see until 2018) will be a Major League Soccer (MLS) team.
“Two separate leagues,” Flynn explains. “The United States Soccer Federation gives distinctions — they are a Division I team. We’re a Division II team. We feel at some point we’ll be a Division I-status team. They’ve got their business model and their business plan, and they do some things different than we do.
“I prefer, and our owner prefers, the NASL business plan, which gives you a little more control of your destiny. 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.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Flynn says he actually looks forward to the arrival of a Beckham soccer team in Miami. Beckham’s team will only draw in more international attention to soccer in Miami, he says, which is what Miami FC needs.
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“Listen, we were here first, but if they come in, that’s great,” Flynn says. “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."
Until then, Miami FC has big plans for 2017. “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,” Flynn says. “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.”
And if you needed any more incentive to be proud of your new hometown team, Miami FC plans to have a mascot, a dance team, a DJ, and even a host next year. So the next time someone confuses Miami FC with Beckham’s soccer team, you can give him a smirk.
Miami FC’s next home soccer match is versus the Carolina RailHawks September 14 at 8 p.m. at FIU Stadium. Tickets cost $20. Visit miamifc.com.