Miami company to take a stab at professional soccer
By Suzy Valentine
A Miami company hopes to strike lucky where others have failed when it launches a professional soccer team here next month.
Brickell-based Traffic Sports USA, which has been distributing broadcasting rights for 13 years, has been working on the venture for two years and says it has spent several million dollars to create the Miami Football Club.
Though the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Miami Fusion have failed, Traffic's president believes the market is ready for a third attempt.
"Miami is completely different in terms of international development from what it was four or five years ago," said Julio Mariz, referring to an influx of European and South American residents who may be more likely to support a soccer team.
Aaron Davidson, head of sales and marketing at Traffic, said the Miami Football Club would play at a more appropriate venue than the Miami Fusion had. Starting April 16, when the team is scheduled to meet Portmore United of Jamaica in an exhibition match, the Miami team will play at a 7,000-seat stadium in Tropical Park.
The Miami Fusion played in Broward County.
"We struck a deal with Miami-Dade County," said Mr. Davidson. "Many teams in the US go for soccer-specific venues that hold 15,000. We went for a smaller stadium. We can always move as we grow."
The Miami Football Club will play in the first division of the United Soccer Leagues, a competitor to Major League Soccer, beginning April 23.
Traffic Sports purchased the franchise for hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Mr. Davidson. He said the team, which is to have a squad of 26 players and 20 support staff, will cost $2 million a year to run.
Brazilian airline TAM, slated to add to its Miami route schedule in July, is sponsoring the team. Six more companies, including a hotel group, may sign sponsorship deals.
Other anticipated revenue streams are ticket sales and player transfers. The team is to include former international players, including Guatemalan Mario "El Loco" Rodriguez and Brazilian Crizam Cesar de Oliveira Filho, whose nickname is Zinho.
English-language TV in the US will be used as a promotional tool rather than as a revenue source, said Mr. Davidson, who said there is money to be made in Spanish-language broadcasting.
"Univision spent $100 million on the World Cup rights," he said of this year's soccer tournament that Germany is staging in June. "Univision called to film promos for its World Cup coverage that feature Miami Football Club and they started screening them this week."
The team's name is something of a working title, said Mr. Davidson, who explained that Traffic would hold a contest in the community to devise a name, nickname and mascot.
"Miami has a big enough reputation," he said. "We want the community to adopt it."
The plan is for Miami Football Club to play most of the year, not just the six months of the season.
"The idea is for the team to play 11 months," said Mr. Mariz. "There will be friendly games here in Miami and we plan to tour."