Can Inter Miami Help Put Florida on the Major League Soccer Map?
By Space Coast Daily // May 7, 2020
Whether you’re a soccer fan or not, David Beckham’s status as a global sporting megastar is undisputed. From starting his career in the UK to marrying a Spice Girl, and then swapping Madrid for LA in 2007, Becks is a household name on both sides of the Atlantic.
The midfielder made just shy of 100 appearances for the Galaxy, before returning to Europe to conclude his career. But he has retained a residence in America since and has spoken on the record on numerous occasions about his passion for developing the sport Stateside.
His signature for the Galaxy helped Major League Soccer (MLS) grab national headlines and he is still arguably the biggest name to play in the competition. But on February 4, 2014, Beckham literally put his money where his mouth is when he exercised his option to take a major stake in a proposed new club in Miami.
The journey to the formation of a club since that point has been far from straightforward, with delays stifling progress on more than one occasion, and setting back the dream of establishing a premier soccer franchise in the state of Florida.
— MUNDIAL (H) (@MundialMag) October 23, 2019
Florida hosted matches at the 1994 World Cup, a milestone moment in the development of soccer in the States. Orlando’s Citrus Bowl was the venue for four group stage games and a knock-out fixture, which saw the Netherlands send Ireland home from the tournament.
But while other States kicked on in the years that followed, and established teams that would compete at the top of the sport, Florida didn’t grasp the opportunity. And it wasn’t until 2015 – a full 19 years later – that Orlando City took its place in the MLS.
Playing out of the soccer-specific Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando, the Lions have struggled to make an impact competitively, achieving a 14th-place finish in their debut season and gradually slipping in the years that followed, despite the high-profile signature of Kaka for their launch.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) April 27, 2020
But despite their poor showings on the field, Orlando have enjoyed a healthy following, including a season-ticket base of 18,000, and a crowd of more than 60,000 for a home opener against New York City in 2015.
So although the Lions have so far failed to deliver success during their short history, and failed to turn heads in the Space Casino football betting markets, they have at least demonstrated the potential for the sport in Florida.
A new name in the game
In January of 2018, the franchise behind the team that would become Inter Miami was granted a license to become the 25th MLS club, and participate in the 2020 season. The club’s identity and brand, inspired by the city’s Hispanic culture and passion for soccer, was unveiled in September.
The identity has its roots in the city’s Art Deco architectural heritage and, unlike many before them, Beckham and his team have worked hard to produce a brand that connects the club to the people in a meaningful way.
Work on the club’s new stadium is ongoing, and Inter have a temporary home at Fort Lauderdale, until their permanent residence, Miami Freedom Park, is completed. Following a string of delays, the 25,000 soccer-specific stadium will become another landmark for the sport in Florida.
It’s now up to the club to live up to the hype and expectations, pick up where Orlando left off, and emphatically introduce a new sporting obsession to The Sunshine State.
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