Miami Soccer in Review: Clubs throughout the county position themselves for the next decade

Miami Soccer in Review | In 2019, Inter Miami CF announced a plan to build a stadium to serve as a temporary venue for its Major League Soccer team and a permanent home for a USL League One side. Photo via Inter Miami CF.

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 2019. As the decade closes, Inter Miami CF, The Miami FC and more prepare for the next decade and beyond.

2019 began with Inter Miami CF targeting Miami Freedom Park and a not-yet-named temporary venue. The Miami FC was preparing for its second season in the National Premier Soccer League. And Miami United FC was gearing up for its sixth season at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah. By the end of the year, Inter Miami was nearly done building a stadium no one envisioned in January, Miami FC was onto its third league in 12 months, and Miami United moved across the county.

Locked into Lockhart

For years, almost everyone who discussed the matter focused in on three possible venues for Inter Miami CF between its 2020 kickoff and the completion of Miami Freedom Park and its stadium. The options considered seemed to be Hard Rock Stadium, Riccardo Silva Stadium and Marlins Park. However, each appeared to have fatal flaws.

Hard Rock Stadium has two permanent residents who play games during the Major League Soccer calendar: The Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes. While The Miami FC had not played in the stadium since 2017, Riccardo Silva Stadium still bears the name of the club’s owner. And Marlins Park, while capable of hosting a soccer match, is not designed for it. In addition, the Marlins’ season and the MLS season also run concurrently.

Our Lee Ifans noted the benefits of Lockhart as a temporary venue in October 2018, before :

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. Its soccer heritage brings something to the table that no other venue can.

Inter Miami CF seemed to agree with that assessment. On January 29, Inter Miami wrote to the Fort Lauderdale city commission with its proposal to demolish Lockhart Stadium and build a stadium and youth academy facility.

A rival bid for the land emerged. FXE Futbol, LLC, led by John P. Reynal, proposed to build a stadium for a USL Championship side. The team that would fill the stadium after Inter Miami left would be a USL League One side. Proposals were considered, lawsuits were filed, and eventually Inter Miami’s proposal was declared the winner.

Inter Miami CF managing partner Jorge Mas sat down with Magic City Soccer to discuss the Lockhart development and more in March.

Construction began in June, and as of last month, ownership has stated everything is on track for the club’s debut in March 2020.

The Miami FC making moves

The Miami FC defended its NPSL National Championship in August, but just weeks before announced that it would be leaving the NPSL and joining the National Independent Soccer Association, a fully sanctioned professional league. The team competed in the 2019 NISA Fall Showcase, claiming the East Coast Championship as well.

Just more than a month later, another move was on the offer. The club announced a surprise move to USL Championship, the second division of American soccer. It was an unexpected move, but provided an opportunity to return to the level it was on during its NASL days.

Miami United in a new home

Miami United spent its first season at Flamingo Park on Miami Beach, but moved in 2014 to Ted Hendricks Stadium at Milander Park in Hialeah. The club won two Sunshine Conference titles and hosted MLS side Orlando City in 2018. In 2019, however, the club decided to move to North Miami Athletic Stadium.

The club reached the Sunshine Conference final for the second year in a row, but again fell to The Miami FC.

Friendly changes

It was surprising when the International Champions Cup announced in March that Miami would not be a host city. Barcelona filled the summer friendly gap, however, when it announced it would be playing two friendlies against Napoli. One of them took place at Hard Rock Stadium on Aug. 7.

Colleges

The FIU men again racked up a winning season (10-3-5), but did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament, falling to Charlotte in the Conference USA tournament semifinal.

The FIU women improved from their 2018 winless season, but not by much. A 2-15 record included a winless conference record.

Sarah Barnes and the Miami Hurricanes saw no significant progress from 2018 in 2019, finishing with a 5-9-2 record.

High Schools

On the boys’ side, Class 1A Palmer Trinity defeated Shorecrest Prep, 2-1. Class 5A Varela reached their final but lost to Lake Mary, 2-1. In Class 2A, LaSalle lost to Lake Highland Prep in penalty kicks, 5-4.

On the girls’ side, only Miami Country Day reached the state semifinals, losing to Lakeland Christian, 1-0.

Thank you for reading Miami Soccer in Review. Happy new year!

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