A global vision: Six years of Inter Miami


“It never crossed my mind to take it to any other city, because I know Miami is the right city.”

Those were the words of Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham, on-stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center. On 29 January 2018 the former England captain announced that the city of Miami would be the site of the latest MLS expansion team, the league’s 25th franchise.

Six years on, he must be feeling pretty happy with his decision.

Beckham had endured a years-long process to establish his new team, a journey stemming from a clause in his LA Galaxy playing contract that gave him the right to purchase a league franchise for the modest sum of $25 million once he had hung up his famous boots. The Englishman began negotiations with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A Giménez in December 2013 but their proposals were initially knocked back by the league, who demanded guarantees on a downtown stadium plan before giving Beckham the green light.

More talks followed and, following an intervention from Miami-born businessmen Jorge and José Mas, an agreement was reached and the new team was announced to considerable fanfare in 2018. Beckham became the first and, for now, only former MLS player to own one of the league’s teams.

Full screen

David Beckham fulfilled his long-held desire to own an MLS team.Aaron DavidsonGetty Images

At that point the name of the new team was still unclear, but the soon-to-be co-owners had major ambitions for MLS’ latest addition. At the Miami event Beckham and Jorge Mas outlined their plans for the team.

Six years on, we take a look at what was promised and how it compares to the reality…

Community

“Our club will have a global vision but our fans in South Florida will always be our first priority, reflecting the best of our community.” – Jorge Mas

Back in 2013 MLS Commissioner Don Garber revealed that Beckham was looking to set up his franchise in Miami. From that point on South Florida was the clear priority and the ownership group has sought to ensure that the team is truly representative of the local community.

From the very start the team’s identity has built on the Hispanic roots of the city, sometimes dubbed the ‘Capital of Latin America’, which has helped to build a unique ecosystem of supporter groups. ´The Seige’ and ‘Vice City 1896′ help build a vibrant in-stadium atmosphere; ‘Nacion Rosa Y Negro’ cater specifically to the team’s Spanish-speaking supporters. The distinctive pink jersey and Art Deco club badge is a nod to the city’s ‘Miami Vice’ aesthetic.

El cántico que prepara la barra de Inter Miami para la presentación y debut de Messi

Full screen

Inter Miami’s various supporter groups pay tribute to the city’s Latin American links.Cliff HawkinsGetty Images

The Inter Miami CF Foundation pledges to “harness the power of fútbol to do good” and offers numerous programs offering nutritional, educational and sporting support.

In previous seasons the matchday attendances have been a little underwhelming, not helped by the less-than-inspiring on-field showings and the lack of a permanent, Miami-based stadium. However, one notable addition in 2023 helped to pack the stands and has strengthened ties between the city and its team…

Players

“Yes, we have a wish list. Yes we want to create a state-of-the-art academy that brings young talented local kids through the ranks.” – David Beckham

Well, on that first point – David Beckham’s transfer “wish list” – it’s a pretty resounding success. Two weeks before the 2018 Inter Miami announcement, Lionel Messi had notched his 366th LaLiga goal, direct from a free kick, to break another scoring record with Barcelona. At that point, the thought of him turning out for the freshly-announced MLS side would have seemed ludicrous.

And yet, after years of behind-the-scenes work, Inter Miami pulled off the greatest transfer coup in MLS history, bringing Messi to Miami. Subsequent signings of Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and, most recently, Luis Suárez – showpiece acquisitions for most MLS teams – have only heightened the excitement surrounding the club.

Lionel Messi has the potential to be an era-defining signing for MLS.

Full screen

Lionel Messi has the potential to be an era-defining signing for MLS. Jasen VinloveUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

And so, onto the second half of Beckham’s proclamation: “talented local kids”.

It’s fair to say that Miami have succeeded on that front too, bringing through young prospects with impressive regularity. The first was Edison Azcona in May 2021 who became the first Homegrown Player to represent the club in MLS. Last season a quartet of Homegrown Players – Noah Allen, Ian Fray, David Ruiz and Benjamin Cremaschi – started an MLS game against the New England Revolution, a real rarity for a top flight soccer team.

Miami-born Cremaschi has gone on to become a regular starter for the team and, still just 18 years old, received his first senior USMNT call-up last year. His progression from the academy to the national team has been a major success story for the Herons.

Stadium

“Hopefully the stadium will be built [by] 2021.” – David Beckham

We now move onto shakier ground for the ownership group, who have spent more than a decade trying to find a permanent home for the team. When Inter Miami was announced in January 2018 the co-owners had settled on a site in Miami’s Overtown neighbourhood, with the team planning to use the site of the Lockhart Stadium in the short-term to allow them to compete in MLS from 2020.

Es la casa provisional del Inter Miami. El equipo floridense juega en el ‘DRV PNK Stadium’ en Fort Lauderdale, a 48 kilómetros de Miami y el recinto puede albergar a 18.000 asistentes.

Full screen

Inter Miami are entering their fifth season in the ‘temporary’ DRV PNK Stadium.Omar VegaGetty Images

Their current home, DRV PNK Stadium, was built on the site of the Lockhart but their aim to build a long-term stadium in Overtown fell through. In March 2020 plans for Miami Freedom Park were announced, with a 25,000-seater stadium to be built on the city-owned Melreese Country Club near the Miami International Airport.

Construction of the new stadium was approved in spring of 2022 and the club is desperately looking to complete the project swiftly to capitalise on the huge surge of interest brought by Lionel Messi. The best estimates suggest that the Miami Freedom Park will be ready for the 2025 stadium, four years later than previously planned.

Success

“We will be relentless in our goal to win MLS Cup and other trophies.” – Jorge Mas

For all the talk of community spirit, global superstars and state-of-the-art stadiums, for many soccer fans Inter Miami will be judged by what they achieve on the field. And so far, after four seasons of MLS play, those achievements have been fairly modest.

Their best Eastern Conference finish came in 2022 when they placed 6th, before being eliminated in Round One of the playoffs. Despite the introduction of Messi and co. in 2023 they failed to make the post-season, even with an expanded format that offered entry to the top nine teams in each Conference.

However while they have achieved little in MLS, 2023 was a breakthrough season for the club in the cup competitions. Messi’s arrival coincided with the beginning of the new-look Leagues Cup tournament which the Argentine, quite frankly, owned.

¿Inter Miami el rival a vencer en la MLS 2024?

Full screen

Lionel Messi led Inter Miami to the Leagues Cup within weeks of making his debut for the club.TIM NWACHUKWUGetty Images via AFP

He scored ten goals in seven Leagues Cup matches as the Herons lifted the first piece of silverware in club history. It was a stunning start for Messi and pretty clear ‘proof of concept’ for a club who had bet big to bring the World Cup winner to Miami. They followed that up with a run to the US Open Cup final shortly after, but were defeated by Houston Dynamo.

When the expansion side was announced six years ago, Jorge Mas described it as the “first step in our quest to build one of the top clubs in MLS and the Americas.” One piece of silverware aside, Miami have not yet established themselves among the continental elite. But after a spell-binding 2023 and some serious off-season reinforcements, Inter Miami look well placed to continue that journey.

You can follow every kick of Inter Miami’s MLS season exclusively on AppleTV (free trial available)

Follow the latest MLS news on AS USA.



Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *