Miami FC, Miami United in new NPSL league with professional players and staff

Miami FC and Miami United have both been announced to be part of the NPSL's new professional league in 2020. They will also take part in the Founder's Cup in 2019. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

The National Premier Soccer League ended long-simmering speculation on Thursday, as it announced the NPSL would be featuring a new full-time professional league in 2020. Before that, it will also host a “Founders Cup” featuring the 11 founding members of the new league. Miami United and Miami FC are included in the 11 clubs.

“We are very excited to bring a new brand of community-based soccer to the U.S. market,” NPSL Chairman Joe Barone said in a release. “Beginning with the Founders Cup, fans will be able to enjoy watching authentic clubs compete with professional players and staff. This new venture will build upon the success and experience of NPSL and its nationwide network of local soccer club members.”

This ends almost a year of speculation about where Miami FC would wind up, after the U.S. Soccer Federation wound up its old league, the North American Soccer League, last year. Miami United has competed in the fourth-division NPSL since its founding in 2013.

This is a breaking story. It will be added to as more information is made available.

Magic City Soccer Episode 63: Inter Miami CF wins at the ballot box, Florida Soccer Soldiers win on the field

Magic City Soccer Podcast. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

In this episode of Magic City Soccer, Matt, Drew, Lee and Abel discuss Inter Miami CF’s electoral victory in its City of Miami referendum Tuesday night, while discussing NPSL PRO and Florida Soccer Soldiers’ success in the UPSL. Join us, won’t you?

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BREAKING: Miami Freedom Park initiative passes, clearing way for Inter Miami CF stadium negotiations

Jorge Mas (far left) and David Beckham speak to a crowd at the Douglas Entrance in Coral Gables after claiming victory in the Miami Freedom Park initiative. Photo via Gabriel Gabor, MLS.

It wasn’t easy, but after two efforts in front of the City of Miami Commission and a hard-fought campaign for the support of Miami voters, Inter Miami CF is one step closer to finally claiming a permanent home. Voters approved a change to the city’s charter that would allow the team and the city to negotiate on a no-bid contract to redevelop Melreese County Club into Miami Freedom Park.

The next step for Inter Miami CF is to negotiate with the City of Miami for terms of a lease. Four of the city’s five commissioners must agree on the terms before any development can move forward. Only three commissioners (Joe Carollo, Keon Hardemon and Ken Russell) supported the initiative in July.

The initiative passed easily, clearing the 60-percent threshold in the city. Perhaps even more critically, the initiative met or exceeded expectations in precincts located in the Grapeland Heights community where the project is expected to take place.

LIVE BLOG: City of Miami votes on Miami Freedom Park initiative for Inter Miami CF soccer stadium

City of Miami voters will decide if Miami Freedom Park will proceed. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

It is decision day for City of Miami voters and Miami Freedom Park. Will the city be allowed to negotiate with Inter Miami CF to construct a soccer stadium and mixed-use development on the current site of Melreese Country Club? The city put the question to voters in July, but tonight we’ll find out if the Major League Soccer team moves on to the next step or is sent back to square one. Stay with Magic City Soccer all day for coverage and information about this important vote. For live election results, you can visit Miami-Dade County’s elections page.

Where do you start? Potential temporary homes for Inter Miami CF

Image via Inter Miami CF.

In just over a week, voters head to the polls in Miami. Regardless of the outcome on City of Miami Referendum 1 we know that David Beckham’s MLS franchise will be finally kicking off in 2020. Whether their permanent home is to be in Overtown or Melreese, Inter Miami CF will need a temporary home. Potential locations are already being looked at, but which option is best?

FAU STADIUM

FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer.
FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer.

A stadium used primarily for college football at Florida Atlantic University. It’s been tossed around as a potential site by some as a way to forge links outside of Dade County early on. Let’s take a look.

Location – 1/10: It’s 50 miles away from the city of Miami. This is a huge issue. Since Mas and Beckham have teamed up they’ve got a lot of decisions right, you’d have to question the decision to take a temporary venue so far away from the final permanent home. This would be a real trek for anyone in South Miami or Kendall for example.

Transport links – 8/10: Just off the I-95 and actually not bad for public transit either. It’s a mile walk from Boca Raton’s Tri-Rail station.

Playing surface – 7/10: Nicely maintained natural grass. You’ve markings from other sports to contend with, but that’s an issue other venues will also face. Only downside is the operator doesn’t have much experience in transitioning the venue to accommodate soccer on anything other than a one-off basis.

Fan experience – 6/10: It’s designed for football and that always comes with the trade off of being quite far from the action on the field. It’s also completely open with no cover at all. The capacity is appropriate though. It can accommodate 29,419 people which would make it ideal for an MLS side. A full house would be a great atmosphere here.

Other tenants and issues – 5/10: FAU Stadium is used by two other teams. MLL’s Florida Launch and, of course, the Florida Atlantic Owls football team. Scheduling is never usually that hard if you’re sharing with one other team but sharing with two, even if they play at different times of the year, could throw up some headaches.

TOTAL 27/50: In another location it would really be a front runner as it scores very highly is some areas. But it will be difficult to make a big deal about wanting to be so identifiably Miami and then going and playing this far north. Inter Miami CF can’t afford to make mistakes, especially early on, and starting so far outside of Miami could be a massive own goal.

HARD ROCK STADIUM

FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer.
Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy F.C. Barcelona.

South Florida’s showpiece stadium is now just over 30 years old and went through a recent update. Designed for football, it still does a great job of putting on other events.

Location – 5/10: The location is pretty solid if unspectacular. It’s Dade County but only just and in the middle of nowhere.

Transport links – 5/10: Your only realistic option is to drive and that of course means you are going to get stung for parking on top of everything. Forget public transport.

Playing surface – 9/10: Also has natural grass and has hosted some of the best soccer teams on the planet with no complaints. Ground staff are experienced at turning the surface around for different sports.

Fan experience – 7/10: The stadium is easy on the eye post-facelift but behind the cosmetic improvements it’s good without being great. Again as a football stadium, if you like to watch the game with a bird’s eye view you’ll be OK. If you want to be close to the action then it’s not so hot. There is more cover than FAU but although you’ll be protected from the rain and the sun it can get pretty windy in some parts of the stadium due to it being in such an exposed location. The capacity is 64,767, which is far too big. Closing off the top tier will help but empty seats are empty seats. The atmosphere will suffer at a stadium that isn’t close to capacity.

Other tenants and issues – 4/10: There’s just so much going on already. Would the franchise want to play second or third fiddle so much? The opening of the MLS season clashes directly with tennis thanks to the Miami Open moving to the Hard Rock from Key Biscayne. In the fall you are battling not one but two football teams. On top of that there is a big schedule of concerts and other events.

TOTAL 30/50: A safe choice but with quite a few little drawbacks. The biggest issues are finding the space for the games in the stadium’s busy schedule and it’s uninspiring location. It’s a place Miami’s sports fans are used to going to though, even if it’s not the best for soccer.

RICCARDO SILVA STADIUM

Riccardo Silva Stadium in University Park, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy Riccardo Silva Stadium.
Riccardo Silva Stadium in University Park, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy Riccardo Silva Stadium.

The spiritual home of pro soccer in Miami in this decade.

Location – 6/10: Similar to the Hard Rock, just on the other side of town. It’s a bit closer to the city and the possible permanent locations though and there’s a bit more going on in the surrounding area.

Transport links – 5/10: Just off the turnpike. Don’t want to drive? Good luck on that #11 bus!

Playing surface – 6/10: Artificial turf. It might be new artificial turf but it’s still not the real thing.

Fan experience – 6/10: The stadium is a bit barebones and open to the elements. Its asset is its small size. Even though it’s designed for football, you’re a little more on top of things than at Hard Rock or FAU. The capacity is exactly 20,000, which might make it a bit small but on the other hand Becks will be able to boast sellout after sellout.

Other tenants and issues – 3/10: This is where things get tricky. The Ricky has demonstrated it can host a whole soccer season alongside the FIU Panthers but are Miami FC about to make a return? Although FC’s future is up in the air there’s an expectation that they will back to bigger things soon, possibly as early as 2019 with the rumored NPSL Pro. If Miami FC are playing here, it’s out of the running as the MLS will not sanction a ground share. And that’s before you even get into what an unpopular figure Silva is with the folks at SUM. If Miami FC vanish it’s a good option but that’s almost certainly not going to happen.

TOTAL 26/50: Well-known to soccer fans in Miami and solid scores across the board. But Miami FC have first dibs. If they are going back, it can’t be considered.

MARLINS PARK

The much-maligned ballpark in Little Havana needs a PR win. Could hosting the new soccer franchise be just the ticket?

Location – 8/10: You’ve got to get people used to coming to a centrally located stadium early on. Say what you want about Marlins Park, the location is second to none.

Transport links – 7/10: Close to the Dolphin but the public transit could be a little better. Metrorail is the other side of the river, although there are free shuttle buses during sports events. A short Uber or Lyft journey from surrounding areas like Doral, Gables and the Grove, Downtown and Miami Beach is a big bonus.

Playing surface – 6/10: Natural grass. The challenge is that there can be big differences in how baseball fields and soccer pitches are prepared. Also you are constrained with the dimensions of the pitch. Not ideal.

Fan experience – 7/10: Once you get over the weird shape of the stadium there is a lot to like. The biggest plus is the roof. This means you can sidestep all the weather delays that would come with the other options. It’s also the only stadium that officially has a standing area, albeit a small one. You can get fans behind both goals so it so overall should score pretty high on atmosphere. It’s a far nicer stadium to actually be in than the other options. Capacity of 37,442 is maybe a little high, but if the team starts off winning they could fill it.

Other tenants and issues – 6/10: Sharing with a baseball team is manageable and they are the only other tenants. Compared to Hard Rock there are far fewer other events to negotiate on the schedule.

TOTAL 34/50: On balance Marlins Park is a nose ahead of the other options. The geometry inside the stadium is not ideal but it’s a temporary venue. The huge advantages it has in other areas should make it first choice. A full stadium will be good for the operator and the team will be starting as they mean to go on, as close to the heart of Miami as possible.

LOCKHART STADIUM

Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is a possibility for a Inter Miami CF temporary venue. Photo courtesy Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

If FAU Stadium is an option, so should Lockhart be. The only existing, if deserted, soccer specific stadium in South Florida. It has even hosted MLS in the past.

Location – 3/10: We are outside Miami-Dade again. Not as much of a mission as FAU but still a good distance from the City of Miami.

Transport links – 8/10: Pretty much the same as FAU here. Moments from the I-95 and a short walk from Cypress Creek on the Tri-Rail.

Playing surface – 7/10: Was a good natural grass surface in it’s heyday and could easily be again. It would need some attention to get back up and running though.

Fan experience – 7/10: You would be hard-pushed to find anyone with a bad word to say about Lockhart. It’s hosted many famous evenings of soccer through the years and is a treasured part of the history of the sport in South Florida. The stadium is open without many places to take cover when it rains but that is surely the only true negative. The combination of it’s historic charm and soccer-specific design make it a great place to watch the sport. It’s small though: 17,417 is its capacity, but that could mean a full house every game.

Other tenants and issues – 6/10: With Lockhart you get exclusivity and you can completely make the place your own. It would require a little cosmetic attention to make it fit for use again but that’s easily doable in the year and half the Beckham Group has. Its age isn’t an issue for the regular fan but it does lack the flashy executive pizzazz the suits might want.

TOTAL 31/50: It would be a great gesture to restore this stadium and hand it back to the community, that would be a big PR win. It could even be retained for a USL affiliate or B team or even an NWSL team. It’s soccer heritage brings something to the table that no other venue can.

There’s not much in it. All five are great options and all have their strengths. Which venue do you prefer? Where should Inter Miami CF start out? Let us know on social media.

Florida Soccer Soldiers beat 10-man Red Force FC 1-0

Florida Soccer Soldiers defeated Red Force FC in U.S. Open Cup qualifying at Tropical Park Stadium in Miami on Oct. 21, 2018. Photo by Lee Ifans.

 

Tropical Park was the scene for another exciting U.S. Open Cup qualifier with two local heavyweights going toe-to-toe for a chance to progress one step closer to the tournament proper. Florida Soccer Soldiers edged out 10-man Red Force FC 1-0 to reach the next round.

With the sad demise of FC Kendall it looks like Red Force have found a new rivalry already. These two teams have been playing some of the best local elite amateur soccer over the past year and a fair crowd of about 125 stayed out late on a Sunday evening to watch a compelling encounter.

With a steady wind whipping in from the north Red Force looked the more composed of the two sides early on. Florida Soccer Soldiers had quite a high defensive line and were almost undone by the diagonal ball over the top a couple of times. Danger man Stiven Salinas getting behind his marker and trying to create chances for his team mates. He and David Holguin combined to set up a chance for the latter but the big Colombian couldn’t get his effort on target.

What the Soccer Soldiers might lack in experience they made up for with youthful enthusiasm. Two players especially catching the eye were Manuel Coll and Valentin Sabella. Sabella, a 19 year old Argentinean, is as fast as lightning and good with the ball at his feet very reminiscent of his countrymen Messi, Maradona or Tevez. Short, quick and tricky. His powerful runs down the left flank were a constant threat to Red Force. Manuel Coll got in on the action with Soccer Soldiers’s best chance in the first 45. Sending an accurate shot on target from outside the box that was well-covered by Red Force keeper Anton Widen. Nil-nil at half time.

Although this match was played in the right spirit, there were flashpoints as the game wore on. A yellow card apiece for the two teams in the first 45 and five more in the second. There was a competitive physical element to the game and it boiled over on the hour when Fabio Fernandes was shown a straight red for a high elbow in a challenge with an opponent. The decision was controversial. It was certainly a foul and a card but perhaps a yellow would have sufficed in the context of the game.

The game-breaking goal

Down to ten men, it got worse for Red Force when the Soccer Soldiers finally made the difference count. With the defense stretched Manuel Coll found livewire Sabella in the box and he made no mistake from close range. It was a fine goal to cap off Sabella’s man of the match performance. It was almost 2-0 not long after that. Julian Hoyos Cadavid with an effort that Widen was equal to.

Into time added on, which there was a lot of because of a few injury breaks and the red card, and Red Force almost got back into it. First hitting the post with a looping effort and then a glorious change for midfielder Jesse Kehoe. Kehoe was through on a one-on-one with the keeeper but Estrada Soto was quick to react and snuff the chance out.

Time was up and the Soldiers march on to the third qualifying round. Red Force had won six Open Cup qualifying games in a row stretching back to September 23rd, 2017. That run came to an end. They’ll be looking for revenge next year when they head into the UPSL themselves.

Post match interview with man-of-the-match Valentin Sabella.

Starting Lineups:

RED FORCE FC

Anton Widen (GK); Richard Perdomo, Lucas Compos Coro, Chris Munoz, Jesse Kehoe, Gilbert Ruiz, Steven Salinas, Fabio Fernandes, Cesar Murillo, David Holguin, Franco Alvaro. Subs; Daniel Gomez, Scott Gordon, Marcello Palucci, Omar Parsad

FLORIDA SOCCER SOLDIERS

Omar Estrada Soto (GK); Antonioni Gonzalez Gutierrez, Adolfo Suazo Williams, Valentin Sabella, Julian Hoyos Cadavid, Mario Ferro, Juan Carlos Paredes Rios, Manuel Coll, Andres Ruiz de Somocurcio, Carlos Meneses Freire, Cesar Moreno Ramos. Subs; Heatclif Castillo Delgado, Daniel Espantoso, Fernando Hernandez Aguirre

RED CARD ’60 Fabio Fernandes (Red Force)

GOAL ’73 Valentin Sabella, Assisted by Manuel Coll (Florida Soccer Soldiers)

MAN OF THE MATCH Valentin Sabella

The Pacific Clasico Lands On The Atlantic Shores of Miami Beach; Chile v Peru Preview

Image Courtesy of Hard Rock Stadium

For the second time in as many months, world class soccer action returns to Hard Rock Stadium. The Magic City will be in the spotlight again tonight as yet another “Clasico” takes place with the Clasico del Pacifico. Chile will take on Peru in what could be an epic revenge match after the CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Throughout the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign, Peru and Chile were constantly jockeying for South America’s playoff spot in hopes of reaching Russia. When the dust was settled, it was Peru that just narrowly edged Chile in goal differential to earn the 5th spot in the table. To make matters worse, Chile’s last loss in qualifying (0-3 to Brazil) crushed their dreams and allowed Peru to qualifying for the tournament for the first time since 1982.  

This fixture has caused nightmares for Peru as Chile’s high flying attacking, featuring the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, has been a thorn in the side for years. The last time Peru earned a result against Chile was in 2013 during the 2014 World Cup Qualifying. These matches have been undoubtedly testy, with four of the last six matches having a member of the Peruvian squad sent off the pitch early.

Peru exited the 2018 World Cup on a high note by beating Australia after dropping their first two fixtures against France and Denmark. The September friendlies didn’t pan out well for the selection as they dropped matches to Germany and Netherlands by a goal each. Peru will turn to Orlando City’s Yoshimar Yotun and Seattle Sounders’ striker Raul Ruidiaz to lead the way and be the spark to the offense.

Chile hasn’t fared much better since missing the World Cup tournament. The last time the Chilean national team tasted victory was against Serbia in a friendly going back to June 4th. The raw talent favors Chile coming into this match as the European pedigree is seen all around the roster. The aforementioned Sanchez and Vidal will join defenders Gary Medel and Mauricio Isla in hopes of keeping the dominant streak over Peru. Should Alexis score in this contest it would be his 40th goal for his country, Vidal would notch number 25.

Peru’s Selection:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Patricio Álvarez (Sporting Cristal), José Carvallo (Universidad Técnica de Cajamarca), Pedro Gallese(Veracruz/MEX)

DEFENDERS (8):  Luis Abram (Vélez Sarsfield/ARG), Luis Advíncula (Rayo Vallecano/ESP), Miguel Araujo (Talleres/ARG), Nilson Loyola (Melgar), Johan Madrid (Sporting Cristal), Christian Ramos (Al-Nassr/KSA), Anderson Santamaría (Puebla/MEX), Miguel Trauco (Flamengo/BRA)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Pedro Aquino (Club León/MEX), Cristian Benevente (Royal Charleroi/BEL), Horacio Calcaterra (Sporting Cristal), André Carillo (Al-Hilal/KSA), Christian Cueva (Krasnodar/RUS), Edison Flores (Morelia/MEX), Paolo Hurtado(Konyaspor/TUR), Andy Polo (Portland Timbers/USA), Renato Tapia (Feyenoord/NED), Yoshimar Yotún (Orlando City SC/USA)

FORWARDS (3): Jefferson Farfán (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS), Yordy Reyna (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN), Raúl Ruidíaz(Seattle Sounders FC/USA)

 

Chile’s Selection:

Goalkeepers (3): Gabriel Arias (Racing), Fernando de Paul (Universidad de Chile), Lawrence Vigouroux (Swindon Town)

Defenders (8): Gary Medel (Besiktas), Mauricio Isla (Fenerbahce), Eugenio Mena (Racing), Enzo Roco (Besiktas), Paulo Diaz (Al-Ahli), Guillermo Maripan (Alaves), Igor Lichnovsky (Cruz Azul), Alfonso Parot (Rosario Central)

Midfielders (7): Arturo Vidal (FC Barcelona), Felipe Gutierrez (Sporting Kansas City), Pablo Hernandez (Independiente), Erick Pulgar (Bologna), Lorenzo Reyes (Atlas), Diego Valdes (Morelia), Victor Davila (Necaxa)

Forwards (6): Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United), Nicolas Castillo (Benfica), Junior Fernandes (Alanyaspor), Angelo Sagal (Pachuca), Angelo Henriquez (Universidad de Chile), Ignacio Jeraldino (Audax Italiano)

Tickets are still available for the match scheduled to kickoff at 8PM from Hard Rock Stadium.

Click Here To Get Your Tickets Now!

FC Kendall blows whistle on operations

FC Kendall will attempt to win the APSL's spring/summer season title. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

Sad news this morning for the local soccer world. Established local club FC Kendall has decided to cease operations, possibly permanently. Club president Mauro Grignola broke the news on Twitter this morning.