In the midst of Florida’s midterm elections that would decide both the leadership of the state and the state’s representation in Congress, among other important races, was a bit of soccer business as well. Major League Soccer expansion club Inter Miami’s stadium plans were up for debate as voters decided if the city should be able to negotiate directly with the club about the development of 73 acres at the Melreese Country Club site.
We’ve followed the David Beckham United FC story from Orlando with a combination of interest and derision, as the club has sputtered through the potential of expansion for the past five years. The most significant hurdle has been the same from the beginning, a proper stadium site. Navigating the demands of MLS and the unique political climate of South Florida has meant a lot of headaches for those involved, and a lot of anxiety for soccer supporters. This vote, giving a green light to negotiations between the club and the city, has to feel like a significant victory for everyone involved.
More than victory, it feels like a bit of community love for the Beckham project which has seen its fair share of negative headlines.
While the exact numbers are still being counted, it seems around 60 percent of voters approve of the deal. While the majority of the news surrounding the club seems to be an even balance between stadium location debates and tantalizing transfer rumors dominating headlines, supporters of the club have continued to show vast amounts of patience in the project. This recent vote has given the public an opportunity to weigh in on their feelings not only about the stadium discussion, but the prospects of having soccer in Miami. The people working to build Club Internacional de Futbol Miami have to feel buoyed by the positive vote.
The city has had a difficult history with soccer, with the Gatos and Toros of the old NASL, the Sharks of the American Soccer League, and the Fusion from the early days of MLS all coming to an early end. One-off events involving European powerhouses have drawn significant crowds in the past, but the lack of successful long-term league soccer in Miami has to make any venture in South Florida a well thought out and carefully planned endeavor. This positive vote should put a bit of confidence into the thoughts of the MLS front office.
Despite our enjoyment of that at times laughably challenging saga from here in Orlando, if we are honest with ourselves, we need a club in Miami. Say what you will about the manufactured rivalries of MLS, they sell TV rights, create viewers, and sell tickets. And, if we are lucky, it can create some excitement like that on display between Portland and Seattle in this year’s MLS Cup playoffs.
Hopefully, this vote can pave the way for Beckham and company to build their stadium and field their team, and we can all get to work on enjoying a Miami-Orlando Sunshine State derby.