Although South Florida still awaits a Major League Soccer team, it continues to grow as a major soccer market and destination for soccer-related events.
The newest one is the upcoming Florida Soccer Expo, a two-day event at Sun Life Stadium that is aimed at coaches, fans, referees, vendors, youth clubs and anyone else with an interest in the Beautiful Game and the soccer industry. The Expo is Sept. 14 and 15, and will include a trade show, seminars, coaching clinics, an indoor 3-on-3 tournament, and interactive games.
Organizers are expecting more than 8,000 people to attend over the two days. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Miami Dolphins, Florida Youth Soccer Association, Florida State Soccer Association and the sports commissions of Miami and Broward are partnering with event director Fernando Descatelli for what they hope will become a growing annual event.
Among the exhibitors are ESPN Sports, Telemundo, Diloa Sports, Admiral and Soccer Locker.
Three new soccer hybrid sports also will be presented: Futtoc, a cross between soccer and table tennis, Footgolf and Futwall, a new game in which you play soccer to music. Sun Life Stadium will offer event-goers behind-the-scenes tours of the stadium and locker rooms. The 3-on-3 tournament will be played on six indoor fields set up on the 200-level concourse.
Descatelli, who has been involved in youth soccer for a long time, said he is patterning the event after SoccerEx, a global soccer convention that is taking place in Rio de Janeiro in late November. That event is held every three years and draws thousands of soccer leaders for five days of networking and business.
“I don’t think there’s a soccer expo anywhere in the United States, and Miami seems like the perfect place,” Descatelli said. “Of course, people in this area go to Sun Life to see the big teams like Real Madrid and Chelsea, but there is a huge soccer industry underneath that level. There are 300 soccer clubs in Florida alone and each of those has between 200 and 4,000 kids. We have parents and coaches who are from Latin America, Europe and the United States. This Expo is a chance for all those people to come together.”
He hopes to eventually make it more of an international convention. This year he has attendees signed up from Italy, Mexico and Ukraine.
The Expo runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Proceeds of food and beverage sales will go toward helping Fugees Family, a nonprofit organization that helps child survivors in war-torn areas rebuild their lives through soccer.
Tickets are $17 per day for adults, $9 for kids under 18 and $12 for seniors 65 and older. Family four-packs are available for $36. To purchase tickets, visit FloridaSoccerExpo.com, Ticketmaster or Sun Life Stadium’s box office. Exhibitor space is still available. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few weeks ago, Dempsey, the U.S. national team forward, got a huge ovation at the stadium when he was introduced after his transfer from Tottenham. But he didn’t play in that game against FC Dallas.
“The game versus Dallas where the presentation was, that was incredible. That was like a movie,” Dempsey said. “So I can’t even imagine when the whole stadium is completely packed and they are behind us. We’ll feed off that energy and do everything we can to make sure they go home happy.”
Dempsey has played two matches so far, a win at Toronto and a loss at Houston. He hasn’t scored yet, but has had chances. If he scores Sunday, the roar might be heard all the way in Miami.• Connections: A new social soccer phone app called “Fanatic” allows fans all over the world to find other fans who follow their favorite clubs and locate bars and restaurants where fans of that club gather. For example, if you type in Chelsea, you will find that Churchill’s Pub in North Miami is a good place to find fellow Blues fans.