The news is in, the new North American Soccer League has been sanctioned (More on that HERE) or should I say 'Provisionally' sanctioned, whatever that means. The USSF says the official sanctioning will be in February. So unless there is some major drama, it's all good.
The NASL will have 8 teams in 2011: Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, FC Tampa Bay, Miami FC, Montreal Impact, NSC Minnesota Stars and the 2010 champions Puerto Rico Islanders. The late addition of AC St Louis was thought as an almost certainty which would have brought the league to 9 teams in 2011. But reports are saying St Louis is done.
With all this mentioned, concern lies in whether the NASL will really "undertake an extensive marketing campaign in the months leading up to its inaugural weekend". More important is my concern that the soon to be announced Strikers will not get the attention it deserves.
It's no secret Traffic Sports, owners of Miami FC and majority owner of the new NASL have been somewhat stingy when it came to Miami FC. With exception of their inaugural season, when they brought in aging star Romario, little has been done to actually capture the attention of the general public in this admittedly unfriendly sports town. Sparks of promise came with the signing of Fusion great Diego Serna in 2009 and the same happened with the signing of Christian Gomez in 2010. But in both cases Miami FC failed to market these (arguably) high profile players.
In recent random unscientific polls made by the Miami Ultras throughout Broward and Miami Dade counties, we asked the average person outside of supermarkets, at pubs and random places if they were soccer fans? If they were, we asked if they had heard of Miami FC? Out of 10 people claiming to be soccer fans I asked in Miami Dade 1 had actually heard of Miami FC and asked me if Romario still played with the team?... Most people don't know Miami FC exists and no matter how much I try to reach out via this blog or passing out flyers there is not much a fan can do to make their team any more known in the community. Word of mouth is not enough.
Soccer is a poor mans sport. It is the working man of Europe, South America and other regions that fill the stadiums of the world in an effort to escape their daily 9 to 5 jobs. So when you go to Traffic Sports offices in Miami's exclusive Brickell and pay $20 for parking... Well, you kinda get the picture that these folks are not in touch with the average "Joe" fan.
Makes you wonder why? Why having offices in such a prestigious area in Miami does not equal to Miami FC being the flag ship team of the USL or NASL? Hell, why not MLS? Shouldn't this team be full of superstars? Or is all the money in the budget going to paying the rent?
But fear not fans, Miami FC has moved the 'TEAM' offices (Not Traffic Sports and perhaps NASL headquarters, they remain in Brickell) to Ft Lauderdale Stadium just across the road from the 'Mecca' of South Florida soccer; Lockhart Stadium. Now, the soon to be Strikers staff will be in the middle of a working class area. The place they should have been from the start. Can this be a sign of things to come? Is Traffic finally getting the picture?
I still worry. The more I read and find out about the Strikers, the more I realize that the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers were arguably one of the most talented sides in the old NASL. If the Cosmos were the Real Madrid of its day then the Strikers was Barcelona. You can't really argue when the Strikers had such stars as Nene Cubillas, Gordon Banks, Gerd Muller, Elias Figueroa, George Best and the list goes on.
Some of the old timers have not embraced the idea of Miami FC becoming the Strikers. Evidence of this is a piece written by Jeff Rusnack of the Sun Sentinel titled Transformation of Miami FC to Strikers has begun
I think it's unfortunate some of the people like (Tim) Robbie and (Ray) Hudson are wary of Traffic and MFC using the Fort Lauderdale Strikers name, but it's the fans that really matter. It makes no difference that this team will have no real connection, organization wise, to the old Strikers team(s). The Pacific Northwest clubs and the SJ Earthquakes have little or no connection to the old NASL teams in their cities. And in the end the old timers will come around and support the new team because they are the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.Now Traffic has the opportunity to start fresh and erase all the bad decisions made with Miami FC. But I guess the question will be: Can Traffic promote the league and not neglect the Strikers?
I think we all could live with a name like Strikers FC or South Florida Strikers, but it just wouldn't be the same as going all out with the Fort Lauderdale name.
The Strikers need to be the Flagship of the league. The example to be followed and of which the rest of the league strives to emulate. I realize Division 2 is a difficult sell but Traffic needs to start to put the team together NOW! Put together a winning team and use the Strikers name as they should and no one will ever blame them for not trying. If we have learned anything from our experience so far with Miami FC is that even a soccer company can fail to run a soccer team if they don't embrace the community.
Now is the time for them to prove all the haters wrong! The ball is in Traffic's side of the field, lets hope they intend to attack.
Are you a Striker liker?