Miami Soccer in Review: The Miami FC brings MLS to Miami in 2017 as Beckham bid nearly collapses

Miami Soccer in Review | The Miami FC forward Kwadwo Poku scores past Atlanta United defender Carlos Carmona to win the club's U.S. Open Cup tie at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami on June 28, 2017. Photo via The Miami FC.

Magic City Soccer will take the last 10 days of 2019 to review the last 10 years of Miami-Dade County soccer. Today in Miami Soccer in Review, we take a look back at 2017. The Miami FC makes an enthralling U.S. Open Cup run, and Jorge Mas offers a lifeline to a Miami Beckham United ready to quit.

When The Miami FC was announced in 2015. owner Riccardo Silva indicated that the U.S. Open Cup would prove to be as important as league performance. That wasn’t reflected in 2016, when the club was bombed out in its first game by Wilmington Hammerheads FC. In 2017, however, a magical run would show the potential that The Miami FC presented the South Florida soccer community.

The cup campaign started inauspiciously, with the club trailing South Florida Surf of the Premier Development League after 21 minutes. After 70 tough minutes more, the Blues eked out a 3-2 win.

The next match pitted Miami FC against Tampa Bay Rowdies, a club that controversially abandoned the North American Soccer League for the United Soccer League. The match offered Miami FC a chance at state superiority, and the club took it, winning a decisive 2-0 tilt.

That set up the match Silva had in mind when he formed the club: The Miami FC at Orlando City SC. Most favored Orlando to advance easily. But the script was not followed. The Blues scored three times in 30 minutes, all put away by recent acquisition Stefano Pinho. That was more than enough to bury an overwhelmed Orlando City side, 3-1. A group of 50 supporters who made the trip up from Miami cheered the team on after the final whistle blew.

If Orlando was a dream, what would come next was pure ecstasy. Atlanta United, at Riccardo Silva Stadium in West Miami-Dade. It would be the first time a Major League Soccer side would play in Dade County since 2001. And it would end in the 93rd minute, when Kwadwo Poku snaked through the Atlanta defense and tucked away a chance that sent Miami to the Open Cup quarterfinals.

The run would end at the hands of FC Cincinnati, but it provided a high-water mark for a club that came into its own in 2017. NASL Spring and Fall season titles would also come to the club, but it is the Open Cup run that sticks in the minds of many as the highlight of a memorable year.

Mas means more MLS

On the other side of town, Miami Beckham United was on life support, and owners David Beckham and Marcelo Claure were debating pulling the plug. From the Miami Herald:

“We were very close to losing this,” Claure recalled Monday, minutes before joining Beckham and other partners for a triumphant announcement in downtown Miami celebrating MLS approval of the expansion franchise. “I took a breakfast meeting with David. It basically was to call it a day. Then we looked at each other, and said: ‘Do we really want to kill it? Should we give it one more shot?’ ”

That meeting, which took place in November, occurred just days after Miami-based developer Jorge Mas messaged the duo asking about the possibility of joining the group and finalizing a plan for Major League Soccer in Miami.

Within two months, Mas would join Claure and Beckham on a Downtown Miami stage celebrating a partnership that would join the league within two years. All that stood between them and full success was was one of the most ambitious stadium plans in Miami history.

ICC returns to Miami in style

For two years, the International Champions Cup eschewed Miami due to renovations at Sun Life Stadium (which had been renamed Hard Rock during this period). When it did return in 2017 to a totally revamped stadium, the event hosted a matchup that had been dreamed about for decades: El Clásico, pitting Barcelona against Real Madrid.

As a kind-of warm-up, the stadium hosted Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. A 3-2 win was sealed for La Vecchia Signora thanks to a Claudio Marchisio penalty.

Three days later, 66,000 fans packed the stadium for the headline performance. Blaugrana bested Los Blancos, 3-2.

Colleges

The FIU men’s program had its most successful season since reaching the NCAA Tournament final in 1996. The team navigated an undefeated regular season (12-2-4), rising as high as No. 8 in the polls. A shock loss to Charlotte in the Conference USA Tournament seemed to sap some of their momentum, and a loss to No. 14 Duke ended any hopes of claiming a national title, but it did offer a look into what the FIU program could be. Two players made the All-American team (junior forward Santiago Patino and senior midfielder Paul Marie).

The FIU women seemed to be running in the opposite direction, finishing 2-15. The Miami Hurricanes women likewise struggled to a 5-11 record, the final season for coach Mary-Frances Monroe.

High Schools

On the boys’ side, three teams reached the state semifinals. Palmer Trinity and Immaculata-LaSalle lost in the semifinals, while Doral lost in the state final to Orange Park’s Fleming Island, 4-0.

On the girls’ side, two teams reached the state semifinals (Lourdes and Palmer Trinity), but neither reached the state final.

Join us tomorrow for 2018’s Miami Soccer in Review.

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