The Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ 2015 season ended with an appearance in the four team NASL play-offs – aka The Championship. This was a noteworthy accomplishment for a team that changed coaches in the middle of the year. But now that the season is over as a result of their semi-final loss to the Cosmos, the Strikers will look to prepare for their next challenge - the 2016 Florida Cup. The tournament will be played in January 2016, as a result the Strikers will have a much shorter off season break than their NASL compatriots.
The inaugural Florida Cup was in 2015 and contested by four foreign teams, two each from Germany and Brazil, in venues throughout the state. These teams were on breaks from league play in their home nations. The winner of that first tournament was 1.FC Koln of the German Bundesliga. The 2016 tournament will see an increase in competitors from 4 to 9. There will be five teams from S. America, three from Europe, and the NASL’s Fort Lauderale Strikers. Details for the competition, including the teams, game dates, and venues, can be found at http://www.floridacup.com/
The tournament itself is a nice showcase for the visiting teams and presents them with a platform for introducing their clubs to new audiences on the one hand and on the other hand it also serves to give existing fans a chance to see them without going overseas. In fact, the same could be said for the Strikers. In an interesting scheduling decision, the Strikers are not playing either of their two games in Lockhart stadium – the Strikers play Germany’s Schalke 04 in Orlando, on January 10, and Colombia’s Independiente Santa Fe in Boca Raton, on January 17. This is a valuable chance for the NASL side to present itself to soccer fans in the sunshine state that may not be aware of the side’s high quality of play.
For the Strikers’ management this is really more than just a marketing opportunity, it is a challenge to enhance the operations side of their organization. The most obvious target for change is the length of player contracts. The custom for many lower league clubs is that players are signed for contracts that only last as long as the season itself. This won’t do if the Strikers plan to make a good showing against their foes in January – they will need to have a team signed and ready with ample time to prepare. Considering the NASL season doesn’t start until the Spring, the Strikers will have to be ready well in advance of their first regular season game.
In fact, as the NASL progresses towards its stated goal of playing top level soccer more and more of its teams will need to change the way they handle player contracts if they want to be discussed alongside the top clubs in North America. In addition to disrupting team chemistry on the field, the constant turnover in players also makes it difficult for fans to develop relationships with players. Player familiarity is a staple of successful clubs across the sporting landscape.
Another part of the Strikers operation that needs addressing is Lockhart. The stadium is old and needs work to bring it up to the quality where it can confidently house top flight soccer. However, this is a tricky situation because the team does not own the stadium. Furthermore, it is reportedly the target of renovation by the local government. As a result, any improvements made by the Strikers will likely be destroyed. Knowing this situation is the key to understanding that the Strikers options are limited. Nonetheless, a light will be pointed at the Strikers since they are hosting an international tournament. Therefore, the Strikers should strongly consider any reasonable improvements they can to enhance the presentation of the club, even it means absorbing some costs they don’t expect to recover. Good publicity isn’t cheap.
Hopefully, the Strikers can rise to the occasion – the league and its fans will be watching. Good luck!
Any comments on the Florida Cup 2016 would be appreciated. Thank you.