On Wednesday, the NASL made the first of what should be several expansion announcements, but the destination is a bit of a surprise. It wasn't Hartford, Hamilton, Los Angeles, or Detroit, but Miami that was awarded a club.
I have to admit, I'm a bit shocked by this news, as Major League Soccer still appears to have designs on putting David Beckham FC in South Florida. That group has struggled to do anything, however, and now they'll have a NASL side in town if they ever become a MLS franchise.
The league announcement states that Miami FC will begin play in 2016, bringing the number of teams in the league up to an even 12. It's still very possible more expansion clubs will be added for next season as well, and Minnesota United will be remaining with the league until they begin MLS play.
With the close proximity of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, there were bound to be some questions about how well this announcement would be received. Strikers' managing partner Ricardo Geromel had the following to say about the matter:
"The Fort Lauderdale Strikers welcome Miami FC to the NASL. I am certain that the ownership group led by Riccardo Silva and Paolo Maldini will create a first-class organization. We expect a healthy and passionate rivalry when we meet on the field, which is great news for South Florida soccer fans. It furthers the case that this region is fast becoming the soccer capital of North America."
Like their neighbors to the south, who are part owned by Ronaldo, Miami FC has a big name in their ownership group as well. Paulo Maldini is a co-owner of the group, and is excited about the announcement:
"I’m proud and excited to be part of this venture. I strongly believe in the growth of soccer in the USA, and this is the perfect project to develop a top-class soccer team in one of the most important cities in the world. We are glad not only to bring a professional soccer team to Miami, but also to support all of its communities through our social responsibility commitment. We believe that the fast-growing NASL will be the perfect platform to develop a successful team and a valuable business. Miami has been my second home for 15 years, so I look forward to spending more and more time here as Co-owner of Miami FC, giving my enthusiastic contribution for its success."
With the success of the three NASL sides in Florida at the moment, as well as the one MLS side that's managed to get off the ground, it's an exciting time to be a fan in that area.