This afternoon, there'll be a big news conference about a professional soccer team officially coming to Miami. But David Beckham won't be there, and neither will Marcelo Claure, his billionaire Bolivian business partner.
In fact, the announcement has nothing to do with Miami's long-percolating MLS team. Instead, South Florida will welcome the new Miami Fusion, an expansion team set to join the National Premier Soccer League, a fourth-tier professional league with squads like the Myrtle Beach Mutiny and FC Wichita.
“Miami Fusion FC will enhance, together with the other teams in South Florida, the already-high level of play that is seen in this part of the country,” Ferdinando De Matthaeis, the team's new head coach, says in a release. “Miami has always been considered a 'touristic' city, and we want to show everyone that Miami and its fans are ready and eager to support and watch quality organized soccer.”
The Fusion will play in Hialeah's Milander Park and join the league's Sunshine Conference, which already includes two Miami-based teams — Miami United and Storm FC — as well as teams based in Winter Park, Weston, and Jacksonville.
According to a source close to the team, the franchise will have a clear developmental vision and largely international makeup, with players and coaches from more than ten countries. De Matthaeis, a former New York Cosmos player who previously coached city rival Miami United, is an Italian who has also been president of a soccer company in that country; the team's three announced player signings so far include natives of New Jersey, Colombia, and Italy.
"It’ll be a heavy European influence as to how the organization is going to be managed," said the source, who declined to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the team.
He added that the expansion and the today's announcement were in no way aligned with the efforts of Beckham or MLS: "[Club owners] have had the naming rights for more than a couple years," he said. "It's not like they're riding on the coattails of what the alleged MLS team is going to do down here."
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The Fusion's news conference is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Made in Italy Gourmet on NE 27th Street in Wynwood.
As for Beckham, he's made plenty of headlines over the past week — but they were for celebrating his 40th birthday and finally getting an Instagram account.
There's still little news on the MLS front in South Florida; last week, a county commissioner told New Times that the most likely locale for a new stadium is still in the vicinity of Marlins Park in Little Havana, a possibility that outgoing University of Miami President Donna Shalala hinted she might support as a new home for the Canes football team.