Soccer

Miami FC’s season will start later than usual. Here’s why.

Miami FC comes off the pitch after a successful first half as Miami FC plays in the Round of 16 of the US Open Cup against Atlanta United FC of the MLS, on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
Miami FC comes off the pitch after a successful first half as Miami FC plays in the Round of 16 of the US Open Cup against Atlanta United FC of the MLS, on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. beereijo@miamiherald.com

Miami FC and the rest of the North American Soccer League will have to wait a little bit longer to make their debut this season.

The league announced Monday that it will adopt the international calendar beginning with the 2018-19 season. The tentative season opener is set for Aug. 11. The schedule alignment change will make the NASL the first professional league in the United States to adopt the format used by the international soccer community.

The move comes with the NASL finding itself short-handed. Only five of eight clubs from last year — Miami FC, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada, New York Cosmos and Puerto Rico FC — remain after North Carolina FC moved to the United Soccer League, and FC Edmonton and league champion San Francisco Deltas announced in November they were folding. The soccer website SocTakes, however, reported that Indy Eleven is set to join the United Soccer League for the 2018 season. Two teams — 1904 FC in San Diego and California United FC in Fullerton — are anticipated to make their NASL debuts this year.

And with just six or seven teams tentatively set to be in the league, the NASL said it’s impossible to play a spring season, which generally begins in early April.

In early November, a federal judge in New York denied the NASL request for an injunction against U.S. Soccer to grant the league Division 2 status. The league has since filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“We find ourselves in a difficult position due to the Federation’s decision, and the impact that decision has had on our players, fans, and front office members is unfortunate,” NASL interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal said Monday in a released statement. “That said, we believe the change to a fall-to-spring format will be very exciting for American soccer as it will better align the NASL with the best soccer in the world.”

Sean Flynn, CEO of Miami FC, said Monday that his club has been an advocate of the NASL transitioning to the international calendar and that there have discussions about making the change since they joined the league in 2015.

“Now that we’re in this limbo stage due to the lawsuit and the injunction that sitting in the appellate court, that has kind of put us in a spot where we’ve made a change to the calendar earlier than anticipated,” Flynn said.

For Miami FC, this means the club will have to wait to see if it can build on a successful 2017 season. In just its second year in the NASL, Miami FC pulled off upsets against Major League Soccer teams Orlando City and Atlanta United in the U.S. Open Cup, and led the NASL with 61 goals. The club sat at the top of the league standings with 69 points, topping the leaderboard in both the spring and fall seasons before losing in the semifinals to N.Y. Cosmos by penalty kicks.

“We’re ready to build on that momentum,” Flynn said. “We were poised for that.”

Flynn said specifics still need to be finalized regarding the team’s expanded offseason schedule and said he will have a better idea of the team’s course of action over the next month.

But for now, if all goes well, the start of the season is seven months away.

“We hope to be playing in August,” Flynn said.

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