The Angle

Miami FC is the Heel That US Soccer Needs

by on 12 July 2017

The world of US Soccer is often a cuddly, friendly place. It has its share of buffoonery, bigotry, and cosplayed hooligan behavior, but for many soccer fans, the growth of soccer creates a generalized sense of goodwill to new, emerging markets. FC Cincinnati’s successes on and off the pitch have made it the USSF Furby du jour. Miami FC, on the other hand, has taken on the mantle of American soccer heel.

On Wednesday night, Cincinnati and Miami will meet in a U.S. Open Cup matchup that looks straight out of a WWE ticket: good versus evil.

In one corner of the ring is FC Cincinnati, weighing in at an average 2016 league attendance of 17,296. No one thought they would be successful and yet they continued to fill their stadium and take third place in the USL in their first season. They are the latest upstart soccer team that has captured the hearts of American soccer neutrals around the country. It also helps that Cincinnati advanced in the U.S. Open Cup with a demon-possessed penalty-kick performance from Mitch Hildebrandt to beat out the Chicago Fire.

In the other corner is Miami FC. Excuse me, The Miami FC.  Like a proper heel, Miami FC has a properly over-inflated sense of self that causes it to assert a definitive article. Weighing it at roughly a billion dollars of Riccardo Silva’s net worth, Miami FC’s primary contribution to the soccer world has been breaking transfer fee records in the lower divisions (though their ultra spring break marketing campaign was good, too).

Miami’s profligate spending caused many observers (myself included) to clutch at pearls over crazy sums of money flying around in a league struggling to find fans. There is a bit of a double-standard, however, at how people discuss spending by Miami and, say, Chicago Fire, who also splashed a hefty salary for Bastian Schweinsteiger despite being near the bottom of league attendance.

In fact, Miami’s dollar bill burning ceremonies to start every match and the general anger toward them makes them a perfect “Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase” of US soccer. Whereas MLS is defined by parity and a general ethos of aversion to risk, Miami embodies the former NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson’s (and more accurately Traffic Sports’) apotheosis of the NASL as a laissez-faire league: a place where no one is there to tell you how to spend your wads of cash.

Fuck the Cosmos

And while an attitude of “Fuck the Cosmos” still persists in the NASL, Miami appear to have taken the title belt from their New York rivals. In 2017, it seems that Miami have out-Cosmosed the Cosmos.

Miami, of course, is following the mold of none other than the New York Cosmos, the team that tried to break MLS. The Cosmos, under their previous ownership, flirted with MLS only to make a fateful call to MLS telling them that they would instead take their global brand to the NASL. In response, the NASL stopped playing nice with MLS and directly started to challenge MLS for division one status.

Fans from around the NASL watched as the Cosmos spent more on a player like Raúl than their team spent on its entire payroll. There is little to bind most NASL fans beyond a shared mantra of “Fuck the Cosmos.”

And while an attitude of “Fuck the Cosmos” still persists in the NASL, Miami appear to have taken the title belt from their New York rivals. In 2017, it seems that Miami have out-Cosmosed the Cosmos.

The Cosmos are no longer the biggest spenders in the league and the ownership transition to Rocco Commisso’s control has coincided with a general decline in the team. Miami FC clinched the spring title of NASL this past weekend with the Cosmos 12 points off the pace and sitting in fourth, behind expansion side San Francisco Deltas and league-owned Jacksonville Armada.

Miami are the money-spending giants of NASL, coached by the big name of Alessandro Nesta. Over the weekend, they clinched their spring title in dramatic fashion with a 7-0 blowout against the second place Deltas.


For many US soccer fans, the NASL is already a seed stuck in the soccer world’s craw, a burr in its heel. For years, the NASL blustered about challenging MLS, which was tantamount to wanting to tear down the stability of American soccer. When the league failed to die over the winter, many sighed that peace in the world of US soccer would be delayed again.

But drama should be embraced. Stories like FC Cincinnati’s are life-affirming and certainly positive for the sport in the US. However, stories like Miami’s are equally important. Hate them if you wish. Decry their irresponsible spending and the unsustainability of it all. At the end of the day, Miami FC are a legitimately good team and not just as big fish in the small pond of NASL.

We need more villains. We need fewer “are we in MLS 3.0 or MLS XP era?” narratives and more stories that challenge the status quo. Most American fans will be rooting for FC Cincinnati and this is a good thing. Those fans should also properly embrace a healthy hatred of a spectacular and audacious heel in THE Miami FC. The “Fuck the Cosmos” is dead, long live “Fuck Miami.”

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