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Matthew Bunch

Matthew Bunch has lived in Miami since 2005, covering a variety of collegiate and professional sports. As Editor in Chief of The Miami Hurricanes, the student newspaper of the University of Miami, Matthew and his staff won the paper's first ACP Pacemaker Award since 1992. With the return of professional soccer to Miami-Dade County in 2016, Matthew channeled his professional interest with his personal passion for the Beautiful Game. You can contact Matthew at bunch.mcs@gmail.com.

All the non-stadium news from Jorge Mas’ Fútbol Miami MLS recent interviews

Fútbol Miami MLS co-owner Jorge Mas speaks during a celebration event at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami on Jan. 29, 2018. Photo via mlssoccer.com.

As is to be expected, there has been a lot of discussion about Miami Freedom Park, where Fútbol Miami MLS intends to build its stadium (with the approval of City of Miami voters in November). However, co-owner Jorge Mas has revealed a lot of other news related to the actual sport of soccer in the course of his interviews this weekend. And it appears a lot of pieces related to the team will be falling into place in weeks, rather than months or years.

Mas spoke to Will Manso of Local 10 WPLG on Sunday, and revealed a number of juicy tidbits:

  • First, the colors, shield and uniform could be released as early as the end of this month.
  • Second, the club has interviewed candidates for general manager and coach, and the GM position is expected to be filled by the end of next month.
  • Third, the team name will be released after colors, and it will not be Miami Freedom, as had been speculated in May. That name will be reserved for the development at Melreese. Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald reported last month that the two favored finalists appear to be Futbol Club Internacional de Miami (Inter Miami) and Futbol Club Atletico Miami (Atletico Miami).
  • Finally, and most critically, Mas reiterated the plan to kick off in March 2020, even though the proposed stadium won’t be ready until 2021. That means  the team will start in a temporary venue. Mas mentioned that there’s interest in “the other two large facilities in Dade County that can house our team,” referring to Hard Rock Stadium and Riccardo Silva Stadium.

Mas indicated the ownership group had an idea of the style it would like to play, and hopes to model Atlanta United as a club to develop players for the future.

Listen to Matt and Omar discuss the “Miami Freedom Park” plan on Magic City Soccer Episode 57!

Fútbol Miami MLS releases stadium renderings, seeks to build momentum for Thursday meeting with City of Miami commissioners

Fútbol Miami MLS will be presenting its vision for "Miami Freedom Park," the home of the future Major League Soccer stadium in Miami alongside other development, to the public on Thursday. Image provided by Jorge Mas via Twitter.

It’s hard to imagine a time where Fútbol Miami MLS might be “done” with the preparation stage. For years, Miami fans eagerly awaiting a Major League Soccer team to support have awaited a finish line. However, developments over the last week may indicate that Thursday’s meeting with the City of Miami’s commissioners may signal the beginning of the end (or, at least, the end of the beginning).

Miami continues to post spectacular 2018 FIFA World Cup ratings

Miami is by far the TV market watching the most 2018 FIFA World Cup coverage, according to an analysis by FOX Sports of both English- and Spanish-language coverage. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

While it’s not a surprise, it is jarring to see how much the Miami-Fort Lauderdale TV market is dominating in 2018 FIFA World Cup consumption.

There has been some reporting on how much Miami is watching, but the full picture wasn’t clear until yesterday. Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports Executive Vice President for Research, League Operations & Strategy, tweeted out ratings numbers combining English- and Spanish-language ratings.

Miami’s role in John Harkes’ removal and America’s 1998 FIFA World Cup collapse

Steve Sampson John Harkes U.S. Men's National Team

The United States Men’s National Team is currently mired in one of its more humiliating periods in the modern era (failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup). Men in Blazers co-host Roger Bennett thought it would be a good time to reflect on the other calamity since America’s return to the world soccer stage in 1990: The U.S. Men’s National Team’s failure at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. His series, “American Fiasco,” produced with WNYC Studios, looks back at all the ways the U.S. fell short leading up to and during that World Cup campaign. The seven-part podcast, however, offers a small look into how Miami played a small role in John Harkes being removed from the team, a key part of the failure that would arrive in the summer of 1998.

Before the World Cup, many believed the United States was ready to emerge as a potential dark horse to compete in the tournament. However, qualifying proved to be difficult and manager Steve Sampson was dealing with stress and injuries to the squad. Left back Jeff Agoos had been injured in a friendly against Mexico on Feb. 15, 1998. In response to this, Sampson turned to his “Captain for Life” to fill in the gap left by Agoos for the team’s match against The Netherlands at Pro Player Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium) in Miami Gardens on Feb. 21.

According to Bennett’s interview with Sampson, Harkes was less than thrilled (you can hear Sampson and Harkes themselves describe the situation in full on Episode 5, about 14 minutes in):

“[Harkes] then says to me, ‘I did not come back from England to play as an outside back. I came back to play in the middle of midfield,'” Sampson told Bennett. “And I looked at him, and I said ‘So you’re telling me that you can only play in one position where you want to play, and that your national team coach is asking you to play this role for this game and you’re refusing to do so.’

“I’d never experienced that, in my entire career, a player telling a coach that he wasn’t willing to play in a certain position.”

Harkes had a different perspective, yet agreed he wasn’t fully sold on the idea of playing left back in Miami.

“I thought that he kept saying I didn’t embrace it, and for me, I was like ‘I’m doing my best here,'” Harkes said. “At times, it was his way or the highway. He had taken on this persona that he was the man in charge.”

Harkes played the game as left back, but the damage had been done.

Arthur Newman (5) of The Netherlands controls the ball against United States midfielder Eric Wynalda (11) during an exhibition match at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens. United States captain John Harkes (6) can be seen on the very right of the image. Photo by Andy Lyons /Allsport
Arthur Newman (5) of The Netherlands controls the ball against United States midfielder Eric Wynalda (11) during an exhibition match at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens. United States captain John Harkes (6) can be seen on the very right of the image. Photo by Andy Lyons /Allsport

Three strikes

Sampson identified three “strikes” that took Harkes from his “Captain for Life” to off the 1998 U.S. World Cup squad. This incident, where Harkes didn’t initially accept the role, was strike one. Strike two was a night out in Brussles that Sampson did not approve of, and strike three was an affair Harkes had with the wife of U.S. teammate Eric Wynalda.

None of this changes the past, of course. However, this additional context about Sampson’s decision makes the 1998 World Cup flameout a little easier to understand. And, of course, Miami had to play a role.

Miami United FC put three past Storm FC to help Sunshine Conference chase

Miami United hosts Storm FC. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

After a lackluster performance against Boca Raton FC and a draw against conference-leaders Jacksonville Aramada, Miami United FC were looking to get back on the right foot. Enter Storm FC.

Storm FC, a team United had put nine past in their earlier matchup, was just what the doctor ordered, as United scored three at Ted Hendricks Stadium to claim a vital three points in the Sunshine Conference.

Manchester City and Bayern Munich hosting events in Miami this week before ICC kicks off

Bayern Munich and Manchester City mascots at Marlins Park. Photo by Arielle Castillo of Manchester City.

Next month, after the 2018 FIFA World Cup concludes in Russia, the eyes of the soccer world will turn to the International Champions Cup. Miami-Dade County will be hosting two men’s matches and the entirety of the women’s tournament. Before the main show, though, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are visiting Miami this month to tease their face-off at Hard Rock Stadium on July 28.

How does Miami stack up as a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup?

United 2026 FIFA World Cup Bid Evaluation Report Cover. Image by FIFA.

Now that we know that the United States will be hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico, the next drama to unfold will relate to the cities that are chosen to host group and knockout stage games. 23 cities were included in the Bid Book, but only 16 will make the final cut.

We know that three cities in Canada and Mexico will host matches. That means out of the 16 American cities included in the book, 10 will make the final cut. What clues exist to the 10 that could be chosen? Some valuable information can be found in the Bid Evaluation Report submitted by the 2026 Bid Evaluation Task Force to the FIFA Council earlier this month.

The Miami FC 2 avoids tripping up against Palm Beach United

The Miami FC 2 hosts Palm Beach United. Photo by Drew Housman.

The Miami FC 2 got back on track Wednesday night, defeating Palm Beach United 4-1 at Bobcat Field at St. Thomas University.

Palm Beach United isn’t generally considered in the top echelon of the National Premier Soccer League’s Sunshine Conference. However, they’ve managed two wins against teams who are in that top tier (Miami United and Jacksonville Armada). For the second time this season, through, Miami FC 2 was able to handle the matchup with ease.