The North American Soccer League has taken its boldest step yet in its mission to provide a viable alternative to Major League Soccer.
The six-year-old second division league announced that the newest addition to its ranks will be Miami FC, a new club owned jointly by Italian media mogul Riccardo Silva and Italian soccer legend Paolo Maldini.
The team will begin play in 2016, with its home field being "one of the existing world-class stadiums of Miami," according to a league release.
“As Miami moves forward in the world of business and arts, we feel that it’s a good time to also take a step further in the world of sports and soccer, and we will do that with dedication and passion, bringing our business and soccer expertise," Silva said in a statement. "Soccer and international culture are a perfect combination - especially for the youth and future generations to come - and it is highly valuable having Paolo Maldini, who will bring his soccer knowledge and shares our vision and our passion.”
As co-owner of the team, Maldini will be responsible for selecting the club's players and technical staff, while Silva will focus primarily on the business side.
Silva is a founding partner of media rights agency MP & Silva, which will also serve as a co-owner of the team along with a handful of other investors. MP & Silva is a major player in global sports media, having distributed the broadcast rights to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and numerous other major soccer properties, including the Italian Serie A, La Liga, CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, and the English, Italian, Brazilian, and Argentinian national teams. As part of its ownership in the team, MP & Silva will also distribute Miami FC games through its channels, which are largely overseas.
There is more to the deal, though. By expanding into Miami and beginning play so soon, the fledgling league is preemptively striking in an area that MLS has been aiming at for years, most recently with an ownership group that includes David Beckham, a former teammate of Maldini's at AC Milan.
However, things have stalled on that front. Since Beckham announced over a year ago that he had exercised an option in his contract to purchase an MLS team, and that he intended to place that team in Miami, little concrete progress has been made toward finding a stadium site. In a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors this year, MLS Commissioner Don Garber declined to give a potential starting date for a Miami MLS team.
By the time MLS does make its move in Miami, it appears that the NASL will have a healthy head start. In just the second sentence of its release on the news, the NASL proudly proclaimed that Miami FC will be "the site's only professional soccer club."