Building Inter Miami
There is also a sense of irony in the fixture list with Inter Miami’s first home match scheduled to be against Beckham’s former team, the five-time Western Conference Champions LA Galaxy. Over six seasons with the Galaxy, Beckham made a huge impact on and off the pitch – he helped the team to back-to back MLS Cup victories in his final two years and brought a global interest and popularity to the league that had never been seen before. As he now stands on the cusp of his first season back in MLS – this time in the boardroom – we look at the club’s preparations ahead of joining the league.
Building a home
After a slow start, when finding a suitable site for the clubs stadium proved challenging, the development of the club has gathered pace since the name and badge were unveiled in September 2018. The project has really accelerated under the guidance of the current ownership group which, in addition to Beckham includes Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, MasTec's Jorge and Jose Mas and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son.
Key to the progress was securing the vote to develop city owned land near Miami International Airport. The Miami Freedom Park project is composed of a 58-acre public park and green space, a tech hub, restaurants and shops, soccer fields for the community, and a 26,000-capacity soccer stadium.
While Freedom Park – expected to be completed in 2022 - will be the long-term home of Inter Miami, the club’s immediate future lies further north at the new Fort Lauderdale stadium which is currently under construction. The project is progressing on schedule with much of the framework of the stadium already installed, including roofing structures and grass on the playing and practice fields.
Local club, global brand
With its high-profile ownership group and its connection to one of the world’s most popular cities, Inter Miami represents a new global gateway to soccer in the US. The club has drawn interest from all corners of the globe, receiving coverage in over 80 countries and across 25 different languages with soccer fans all around the world waiting eagerly for updates on the club’s progress.
Beckham & Miami is a union of two global icons, renowned the world over and synonymous with creativity and glamour. This union creates an exciting property for both fans and global brands alike and positions the club at the forefront of soccer in the US. While this global potential is built into the club’s fabric, Inter Miami has also been developed with the interests of the city’s diverse communities at heart:
“Inter Miami aims to represent all of South Florida and the cultural mosaic that is its citizenry,” said Inter Miami CF Managing Owner Jorge Mas. “With our debut quickly approaching, we continue to fortify the pillars of our club. We hope to bring world class football to this city and to capture the attention of the world with our project.”
Building a team
Key to their success on and off the pitch will be the signings they make – can they build a team with right blend of experience, youthful potential and stardust to mirror the success of recent expansion franchises such as Atlanta United and LAFC? Under the guidance of experienced Sporting Director, Paul McDonough, they have made a strong start with the acquisitions of experienced MLS midfielders Jay Chapman and Victor Ulloam in addition to the promising South American talent in Argentines Matias Pellegrini, Julian Carranza as well as Venezuela U-20 team captain Christian Makoun. “Our team will play attractive, exciting football because that’s what Miami and South Florida is all about,” said McDonough. “We know we need two things to be successful; we need MLS experience and we need young, talented players. All of these are coming.”
And the stardust? Well, the rumour mill has been working in overdrive with a host of global stars already being linked to the club. This is not surprising given the connections of Beckham and the allure of South Florida but the challenge will be to bring in a player – or players - who can galvanize and get the best out of the younger, less experienced members of the squad rather than someone looking for one last paycheck in the sun whose status maybe more disruptive than inspiring. Since Beckham first embarked on his US pilgrimage 12 years ago, there has been a steady flow of European stars coming to MLS with differing levels of success, so all eyes will be on the club’s first marquee signing as and when it happens.
Commercially and operationally, Inter Miami have made significant strides these past 12 months with the club embarking on a recruitment drive that has seen staff numbers swell from the five who represented Inter Miami at the inaugural Soccerex USA event in November 2018 to team of 30 front office staff, working across nine departments and boasting significant industry experience plus a team of 15 technical staff overseeing all academy and player development activities:
“We want Inter Miami to be a celebration of all that South Florida has to offer and our investment in the community continues to grow as we get closer to launching our inaugural season,” said Jurgen Mainka, Inter Miami’s Chief Business Officer. “We are in the midst of bringing two world-class soccer facilities to South Florida, refining our youth development Academy and launching our official Foundation and community engagement platform to fully bring the ownership’s vision for our club to life.”
The one big hire missing is the head coach. Much like the many transfer rumours, a host of big-name coaches have been linked to the job, but it seems as if the club are close to finding their man. McDonough recently told MLSSoccer.com: "We’ve been heavily involved in talking to people, we think we’re pretty close to finalizing with the guy we want to lead the project”.
Building a fanbase
Central to any club’s development are their fans and the relationship the club fosters with them. Nowhere is this truer than in MLS where the character of supporter groups is so much a part of the league’s ecosystem and, before they have kicked a ball, Inter Miami already boast three official supporter groups – The Siege, Vice City 1896 and Southern Legion. The groups are designed to appeal to the different types of soccer fan in Miami and are coordinated by dedicated web and social media pages offering everything from chant lyrics to merchandise. The dedication of Inter Miami’s fledgling fanbase cannot be doubted. Mas Ramos, "Coordinator of the Cohort" for The Siege, recently told B/R:
“The buzz is really starting to ramp up. We started technically earlier this year, but we've been part of an effort to bring MLS to Miami since 2013 when Beckham announced he would bring a team here. We currently have 200 paid members and are looking to grow and build for March 2020.”
As the countdown to kick off ticks away, the excitement across the city is building and the challenge for Inter Miami now is to ensure that their performances on the pitch live up to expectations. With the backing of their fans, the city and their passionate ownership group, you certainly wouldn’t back against them.
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