A world-famous soccer star is bringing a professional team to Miami, but his name is not David Beckham.
Paolo Maldini, the retired AC Milan icon and a part-time Miami resident for 15 years, announced Wednesday that he teamed with sports media magnate Riccardo Silva to launch Miami FC, which will play in the North American Soccer League, the second-tier U.S. league that includes the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Miami FC plans to start playing in 2016. Sources say they will play at Florida International University. The ownership group also includes Antonio Barreto, a sports media entrepreneur and Miami resident, who will act as CEO of the club.
It becomes the fourth minor-league team in South Florida and the second new club in the past month. The Miami Fusion, in the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League, is playing its inaugural season at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah. This new incarnation of the Fusion has no ties to the former MLS team with the same name.
Miami United, also a member of the NPSL, is based at Flamingo Park in Miami Beach.
Meanwhile, Beckham’s plan to bring a Major League Soccer club to Miami remains in limbo as he and his group try to find a suitable stadium site. MLS commissioner Don Garber will be vacationing in Florida over the next week, and plans to visit Miami officials in an effort to expedite the project.
Maldini represented Italy in four World Cups and won five European championships during 25 years with AC Milan.
“I strongly believe in the growth of soccer in USA, and this is the perfect project to develop a top-class soccer team in one of the most important cities of the world,” Maldini said. “We believe that the fast-growing NASL will be the perfect platform to develop a successful team and valuable business. Miami has been my second home for 15 years, so I look forward to spending more time here as co-owner of Miami FC, giving my enthusiastic contribution for its success.”
Said NASL commissioner Bill Peterson: “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. This group is very focused on fielding a competitive team and being a partner to the entire Miami community.”
Up the road in Fort Lauderdale, where Brazilian star Ronaldo is a minority owner of the Strikers, managing partner Ricardo Geromel welcomed the news of a new Miami NASL rival.
“We expect a healthy and passionate rivalry when we meet on the field, which is great news for South Florida soccer fans,” Geromel said. “It furthers the case that this region is quickly becoming the soccer capital of North America.”