By Barry Janoff
May 20, 2015: A professional soccer club headed by an international soccer star is heading to Miami, but it's not coming from Major League Soccer and David Beckham.
The North American Soccer League said that Miami Football Club would in 2016 become the league's 12th franchise, under an ownership group led by international soccer star Paolo Maldini and Ricardo Silva, president and founder of the MP & Silva Group, a global distributer of sports media rights.
The club will also compete in the U.S. Open Cup and will host international tournaments and friendly matches in Miami. According to the NASL, Miami FC will play its home games in "one of the existing world-class stadiums of Miami."
“This exciting announcement is another testament to the strength of our rapidly growing organization, our owner-friendly structure and the growing popularity of NASL soccer worldwide," said NASL commissioner Bill Petersen. "Riccardo Silva is a world leader in soccer media, and he has decided, along with his partners, that Miami and the NASL are part of an important future for the game globally.”
The news comes as MLS continues to attempt to expand to Miami under an ownership group fronted by Beckham. Their efforts have faced numerous logistical, political and financial hurdles over the past couple of years, including building and supporting a new stadium.
NASL also has a franchise in nearby Ft. Lauderdale.
Miami has a pro soccer history dating back to the early 1970s. The original NASL was represented there by the Miami Gatos (renamed the Toros), which lasted from 1973-75. The MLS Miami Fusion existed from 1998-2001. A franchise known as Miami FC was founded in 2006 but moved to Ft. Lauderdale in 2010 to become the current MLS Strikers.
In addition, Miami United and Miami Fusion play in the National Premier Soccer League.
Maldini represented Italy in four FIFA World Cups and won five European club championships with AC Milan, where he spent his entire 25-year playing career.
“Miami finally has an ownership group with a global vision and the experience to build a proper club that all of Miami will be proud to support."
Silva, president and co-owner of Miami FC, will use the MP & Silva Group to distribute Miami FC matches worldwide through an estimated 50 TV channels covering more than 150 countries, according to the NASL.
The ownership group of Miami FC also includes a group of international investors led by Antonio Barreto, described as a longtime sports and media entrepreneur and Miami resident, who will be CEO of the club.
“I’m proud to support a venture that is not only bringing world-class professional soccer to Miami but also a project with an active charity program for the local community,” Silva said in a statement. "As Miami moves forward in the world of business and arts, we feel that it’s a good time to also take a step further in the world of sports and soccer, and we will do that with dedication and passion, bringing our business and soccer expertise.”
According to Maldini,“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 finally has an ownership group with a global vision and the experience to build a proper club that all of Miami will be proud to support," said Petersen. "This group is very focused on fielding a competitive team and being a partner to the entire Miami community.”
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