While David Beckham and his group continue to negotiate a stadium deal for their proposed Major League Soccer team, the city’s other new professional soccer team, Miami FC, forged ahead by announcing on Wednesday that it will play its games at Ocean Bank Field at FIU beginning in April 2016.
Miami FC and FIU entered a three-year deal with a two-year option in which the team will pay $10,000 rent per match, plus $2,500 if the opposing team wants to practice there. FIU will receive $2 per ticket. Also, Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva donated $450,000 to the FIU athletic department.
“Thank you for hosting us in this beautiful already-built stadium today,’’ said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, drawing chuckles from the audience. “I’m excited to welcome professional soccer to Miami-Dade County. It is befitting that our Miami-based university, with 54,000 students, will be where Miami FC plays.’’
Gimenez later told the Herald that there is room in Miami for two pro soccer teams.
“This is just a testament to the soccer world’s attraction to Miami that we had no professional franchises here in Miami, and now we have one for sure and probably another one, so we’ll have two in a very short period of time,’’ Gimenez said. “The stadiums will be 20 to 25,000 seats. There are plenty of soccer enthusiasts in West Dade, so this franchise will be very easy for them to get to, and all the students. And then MLS, if it goes to Marlins Park, will be more of a downtown crowd. I feel they can both be successful.’’
Miami FC already has a coach — Italian legend Alessandro Nesta — and has been scouting for players in South and Central America, the United States and Europe. Practice will begin in mid-January. The team is a member of the National American Soccer League, the second-tier league behind MLS. It is the same league in which the Fort Lauderdale Strikers play.
NASL commissioner Bill Peterson is optimistic about Miami FC because Silva is a world leader in sports media rights and co-owner Paolo Maldini is an Italian soccer legend.
“They have the passion for the game and know what it takes to be the best in the world; they’re not learning along the way,’’ Peterson said. “The NASL was launched five years ago with the goal to one day compete at the highest level, and we feel we’re quickly on our way.’’