Soccer fans in South Florida have an interesting event to look forward to next week. The SPORTELSummit Miami Beach will bring a number of important figures in the sports world together to discuss the issues of the day. However, there are some notable absences that leave participants and followers asking: What happened?
The Miami FC, which is a co-sponsor of the event, figures prominently in the schedule. It sponsors a “Welcoming Breakfast” and a “Networking Lunch.” CEO Sean Flynn will participate in a panel called “Is Promotion and Relegation the future for soccer in the US?” But it is another panel which may generate much curiosity.
On May 16 at 10:20 am, the conference is hosting a panel entitled “Is the US Soccer Market a Healthy One?” Obviously an interesting topic for any soccer fan, it is a discussion moderated by Kay Murray of beIN SPORTS and featuring speakers Riccardo Silva (President and Co-Owner, The Miami FC), Kyle Martino (former U.S. Men’s National Team player, current analyst for NBC Sports) and Philippe Moggio (General Secretary, CONCACAF).
What makes this panel more interesting, however, is the fact that only Silva was on the original panel lineup announced on social media earlier this year.
According to the SPORTELSummit’s original announced lineup, Silva was scheduled to sit beside Don Garber (Commissioner, Major League Soccer commissioner), Darren Eales (President, Atlanta United FC) and Jorge Mas (Co-owner, Fútbol Miami MLS) and discuss the health of the U.S. soccer market.
A hint as to the original lineup remains with the description of the panel on the SPORTELSummit website:
MLS is getting bigger and money flows in, but is there sustainable growth? And how important is the US national team’s recovery for the sport?
While Martino has six years of MLS experience, and CONCACAF is the continental confederation that oversees Major League Soccer, no MLS representative is present to discuss MLS’ contributions to “sustainable growth.”
Efforts were made to reach out to Eales, Garber and Mas for comment. The Atlanta United communications office stated that MLS was handing Eales’ appearance, and questions should be handled through MLS’ communications office. Multiple attempts to establish comment through that office were not returned. Multiple attempts to reach Mas for comment at his business, MasTec, were not returned.
Causes for change
So what caused the change? The obvious answer would be that representatives from MLS wouldn’t want to sit with Silva, who acts as a figurehead of the North American Soccer League in its legal tussle with the U.S. Soccer Federation. Much of the legal wrangling, after all, deals with the NASL and its relationship (or lack thereof) with MLS. Kartik Krishnaiyer, a local source of soccer information, indicated as much on Twitter last month:
Sources indicate to me that #MLS wanted to ensure that only MLS-affiliated panelists discussed US Soccer at the May 15-16 @SportelSummit in Miami Beach. Sportel weren't prepared to accept that. The conference will feature a robust discussion issues in US Soccer (not only MLS).
— Kartik Krishnaiyer (@kkfla737) April 25, 2018
Whatever the change, the biggest losers will be the participants in the summer, and soccer fans in Miami-Dade County. There are a great many people interested in an actual, robust discussion about soccer in America. If there’s any market that’s even more concerned than the average fan, it’s Miami. From youth talent, to lower-level success, to uncertainty in the top flight, Miami has all the factors necessary to really have a thorough discussion. Unfortunately, several important stakeholders are going to be excluded.