By Nicholas Poblete and Cristhian Plasencia/Panther Press Staff
The decision to strip the North American Soccer League of its second division status forced Miami FC to create an alterative team, switch leagues and play away from the Riccardo Silva Stadium this Spring.
“Completely disappointed that the United States Soccer Federation did not grant the NASL division two status back in the Fall, which led us on a path that ultimately led to the NASL canceling the 2018 season,” CEO of the Miami FC Sean Flynn said.
After the USSF announced it was stripping the NASL’s division two status and giving it to the USL, Silva and the rest of the NASL were vocal about their hopes of retaining the leagues status. Despite these efforts, the District Court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction on Nov. 4, 2017. Months later, on Feb. 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit stuck with the District Court’s decision.
Since the NASL announced it was canceling its 2018 season, some teams have been forced to fold, while other teams have had to find other leagues to play in.
For former NASL director of communications Kartik Krishnaiyer, the league made countless errors because of its over ambition. Krishnaiyer said that some NASL teams were in debt.
“They’re unlikely to continue as a league again,” he said. “Primarily, the focus was based on getting attention and competing against the MLS to become the top-flight soccer league in the U.S. When a newly founded league focuses on branding, it becomes problematic.”
Miami FC had made the Modesto Maidique Campus its home since 2016, renovating and renaming the football stadium. Team owner Riccardo Siva added new turf and an 1,800-square-foot high-definition screen.
In the midst of David Beckham announcing plans to bring Major League Soccer to the city, Miami FC gave soccer fans what they longed for: competitive soccer. Despite Miami not playing at the highest division in U.S. soccer’s pyramid, it did give fans riveting soccer at times.
Making a run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Miami FC created local interest; bring top-flight soccer to the Riccardo Silva Stadium. Miami FC hosted Major League Soccer team Atlanta United in the Round of 16 back in June 28, 2017. In front of 9,004 fans, Miami defeated Atlanta by a score of 3-2.
Miami FC’s run in the Cup ended abruptly at home on Aug. 2, 2017; against United Soccer League side FC Cincinnati. Cincinnati defeated Miami 1-0.
Miami FC also enjoyed success throughout the 2017 NASL season. The team, then coached by Italian World Cup champion Alessandro Nesta, were crowned champions of the Spring and Fall season, the first time in NASL history a team was able to take both seasons back-to-back. Nesta’s team was defeated in the semi final of the NASL Championship, at home against the New York Cosmos, back in Nov. 5, 2017.
With the United States Soccer Federation and NASL feud looming, Miami FC took to the field that November day, against the Cosmos, with hashtag OpenSoccer on their jerseys. The hashtag on their jerseys referred to creating a promotion and relegation system for U.S. soccer, a movement Silva spearheaded.
Former NASL sides Jacksonville Armada, New York Cosmos and the Miami FC will take part in the National Premier Soccer League, beginning April 15.
Miami FC will field an alternative squad, naming it Miami FC 2. The team will play in the NPSL’s Sunshine Conference Division, with the likes of local team Miami United FC and Miami Fusion FC. Silva’s team will play at the soccer field in St. Thomas, where the team hold its practices, during the 2018 NPSL season.
For Drew Housman, member of the team’s support group, the Dade Brigade, not playing in FIU this season is going to hurt the team’s overall attendance.
“It’s a shame, when the past two years two years the attendance had been increasing, but now there are not many other options than playing at a smaller field like St. Thomas,” Housman said.
Nesta, Stefano Pinho, Richie Ryan and Blake Smith left the team after playing significant roles during the NASL’s 2017 season. Miami FC have since then brought in Paul Dalglish as the new head coach. Dalgish is the son of former Scotland international Kenny Dalglish, who coached Premier League side Liverpool between 2011 to 2012.
With the Miami FC organization having to adapt to the new 2018 season, Flynn says that the team currently has no concrete plan of action to get the team back into a more competitive league, but says they are looking into all viable options.
The Miami FC 2 will begin its run in the NPSL at 7 p.m., in Milander Park, on April 15, against Miami United FC.