If reports are to be believed, FC Barcelona will be tossing its proverbial hat into the ring for the chance to land an MLS expansion team. There had been rumors of this previously, but it appears legit now as The Miami Herald is now reporting that they will indeed buy an MLS lotto ticket.
From the Herald:
Barcelona announced on its website that it would partner with Miami resident Marcelo Claure, a Bolivian cellphone magnate and owner of FC Bolivar, to launch a team in Miami. Claure is the CEO of Brightstar Communications, a multibillion-dollar company that is one of the largest Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States. Joan Laporta, president of Barcelona, and Joan Oliver, the club's general director, plan to be in Miami Wednesday to present their plans.
First, are they many phrases more intrinsically entertaining than "Bolivian cellphone magnate"? Second, a Spanish team with global appeal opening up a subsidiary in a market full of latinamericanousness, this seems like a no-brainer, right?
Not so fast, mi amigo.
Remember Miami already had an MLS team, the Fusion. They closed up shop in 2001, along with their Floridian brethren the Tampa Bay Mutiny, as MLS contracted from 12 to 10 teams. And even though the league is seemingly on better financial footing, attendance levels are only now back up to what they were during the league's inaugural season. Plus, if Miami does get a team, it will be in 2011, after 2 other cities (in Seattle 2009, and Philadelphia 2010) have jumped in to dilute the talent pool. That's a problem for whoever gets bids, though, as a two team expansion in 2011 is happening.
But maybe South Florida just ain't the sports hotbed that people want it to be. Of the 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely to Move as ranked by Forbes, two of them, the Rays and the Marlins, are in the region.
The Marlins were drawing crowds in the hundreds despite being on the fringe of the playoff race into September. And the Rays made the playoffs and still can't sell out. Even of the area teams that didn't make the Forbes list, the gate ain't great. The Florida Panthers draw 28th out of 30 in the NHL and the FBI is starting to relocate witnesses to Heat games.
So whether the jackpot is really worth winning for Miami remains to be seen.
TFA UPDATE: The Offside Rules had a post recently regarding the potential situs of Miami's stadium. It's a neat little stadium with retractable seating to fit soccer fields better. Although, it is not soccer specific as MLS desires, but given the current economic climate, probably isn't a bad deal to begin with.