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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When Saturday rolls around on the campus of FIU it usually means it’s time for football. American football, that is.
But during the spring and summer, Miami FC soccer is taking over.
That’s thanks to the team’s owner and international businessman, Riccardo Silva.
“You can’t not like Miami,” he said. “For me, it’s the best city in the world.”
Silva has set up camp in Miami but made his mark in the media, buying and distributing television rights for some of the world’s biggest sporting events.
“We have rights for the NFL outside the US and Canada,” Silva explained. “We have for many years. We have rights worldwide for the Italian soccer league, the French soccer league, the Premier League for 51 countries worldwide.”
With a resume like that, it was only a matter of time before he owned his own club.
In less than two years, Miami FC is in first place in the North American Soccer League.
The team also has a winning relationship with FIU.
“We thought there were three very good stadiums in Miami so instead of building a fourth one, we thought the best idea was to rent or share an existing stadium,” Silva said.
He donated nearly $4 million for stadium renovations in 2017, including a new scoreboard and playing surface.
“The turf was terrible,” he said. “The stadium was fantastic but the turf was first of all a bit old and only fit for American football, so like a carpet. We sat with FIU football to find the perfect combination the perfect turf for both football and soccer.”
There’s only been four homes games this season but Miami FC is averaging over 6,000 fans a night and they’re all here to see the only professional soccer team in town.
“I really hope and believe that in 20 years this team could be really like the [Miami] Dolphins, the [Miami] Marlins or the [Miami] Heat,” Silva said. “I think 20 years is an appropriate time to reach this. It takes time. It takes one generation, I think.”
Silva is in for the long haul and has a head start on David Beckham, who’s been trying for years to bring an MLS team to Miami.
He says they won’t go in to business together but welcomes the idea of two soccer teams in Miami.
“So far we’re just supporting them, like rooting for them,” Silva said. “Then we will see in the future because there isn’t a team yet. When the team will exist we will probably incorporate more.”
Silva says hiring locally has helped grow the franchise and says ultimately he’d like to see more players from South Florida on the team, which is why they plan on launching a soccer academy in 2018.