Michael Farrow's sports blog

A collection of new and old writings

…on contraction in Florida

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The Home Depot Center has been an complete gamechanger for Major League Soccer

It’s a real shame sometimes.   The perception of a situation becomes the reality.  Two years ago, MLS took the tough decision to kill their two Floridian franchises and either re-assign their players or release them.  It was regrettable, some argue it was a mistake but the worst of it is that now everybody blames the cities and regions involved.  Let’s dispel some myths.

Tampa Bay was contracted because they were a league-run team. They were losing money, an investor couldn’t be found.  MLS batted their eyelashes at the Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they didn’t bite.  It cost $20m to get the franchise off the ground and they had lost a further $40m in 5 years.  It was decided to stop the financial bleeding.  It could have happened to San Jose but it happened here.

Miami were beginning to turn a corner. The investor/operator Barry Horowitz only had a skeleton staff running the team so it wasn’t the most costly operation.  They didn’t seem to have the means to promote the team or bring in any extra fans.  Despite this, an attractive, Supporters Shield-winning team in 2001 brought the fans back and the average attendance was as high as it had ever been.  However, I think there was a belief amongst some MLS execs that Miami would never work and that it was a lost cause, when a change in ownership could have salvaged the situation.  Miami may have survived had Phil Anschutz not bought the Metrostars and instead, as he had earlier seemed to indicate, bought the Fusion. It could have been Dallas if Lamar Hunt hadn’t have gotten involved so Miami were the unlucky one who evened up the numbers.

A lot has changed in such a short time but I suppose it comes down to the prospects.  The winter of 2002 was a gloomy time, with MLS not seeing a future and the league haemorrhaging money.  Changes had to be made and Don Garber decided that two teams had to go because the league couldn’t continue to run that number teams and lose that amount of money.  As I said, it could have been San Jose, Dallas or Metrostars being contracted.  It seems bizarre that this wasn’t that long ago and a new dawn has come.  One thing has changed in that time, which is hope.  Firstly, the US men’s national team got to the Quarter Finals of the World Cup.  Secondly, the Home Depot Center opened last summer, which has made the Galaxy profitable and breathed oxygen into the lungs of other stadium projects.

We shouldn’t forget how desperate times were two years ago and it was that desperation that killed the Florida franchises.

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Written by Michael Farrow

January 7, 2004 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Football

Tagged with ,

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