By RYAN TOLMICH
Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva knows that opportunities like this don’t present themselves very often.
Silva has spent plenty of time around the game of soccer, but knows the opportunity to own a team and, not just run it, but mold it from the beginning became one that was too exciting to pass up.
Now, three months after announcing his venture with Italian legend Paolo Maldini, Silva remains as excited about Miami FC as ever, as the club begins to take shape less than a year out from its debut.
“I love soccer, I love Miami and I’m excited to launch a team,” Silva told SBI. “It’s something I could have never done in Europe. It’s very exciting. It’s a very mature market. U.S. soccer is young, but there is room to grow so it’s exciting to start something small with a very long-term view.
“For me, that’s the exciting part: to start everything from scratch. The colors, the logo, the players, the shirt, the coach, the fans. … That’s one of the reasons why I did it.”
Silva and Maldini, both of whom have adopted Miami as their homes for years, took the first step in making Miami FC a reality with the recent introduction of the team’s logo. For Silva, that reveal was an important one for the club, as the ownership wanted to send an immediate message that Miami FC would be a club that would embrace the symbolism of being in the “crossroads of the Americas”.
With that now in place, Silva says that the next move is to introduce a coach, a task that will fall to Maldini, who will help take charge of the sporting side. Rumors have been swirling that Maldini’s connections would land fellow Italian legend Alessandro Nesta as the team’s head coach, but Silva remained noncommittal.
“(Maldini) has been owning a house in Miami for 15 years,” Silva said. “It’s his second home, and Paulo is in charge of the athletic side, the sport side of the team. Of course he’s not following directly on that marketing side, but he will choose the sporting director and he will choose the coach and, together with the sporting director and the coach, he will choose the players.
“It’s something that will be decided by Paolo Maldini. I know there were two or three names circulating, and Nesta was one of those and I will ask him about that, but I think it will be taken within probably two or three weeks.”
Still, a team remains nothing without the players, a fact not lost on Silva. In a difficult Miami market, Silva understands that his team will need to make a statement from the get-go with the acquisition of top-notch talent.
According to Silva, those talents will likely begin to arrive in November or December, as the club does not wish to keep players on ice for the next year or so ahead of its debut. With that being said, Silva said that interest in the team has been massive and he expects the allure of joining the legend Maldini in an attractive city like Miami to be a major draw.
“I must say that we have been approached by many players, some big names, that are interested in playing,” Silva said. “They are interested by our project. The Paulo Maldini presence is something that gives a big standing to the project and also the attraction of living in Miami, which is something, from Europe, where players want to go to London or other attractive cities rather than other cities for their families to live.
“We have enjoyed very good interest from top players to play in our team. We will see.”
With all of that in mind, Silva has already set some preliminary targets: winning the NASL championship while doing legitimate damage in the U.S. Open Cup. As a chance to compete with MLS teams, Miami FC has circled the U.S. Open Cup as a major starting point towards establishing dominance in the region.
Yet, for Silva, joining the NASL was the best move rather than trying to compete with David Beckham to try and jump into the more established MLS with a Miami franchise. The NASL is the place that makes most sense for Silva and his ambitions due to the freedom that comes with the league.
“There are two reasons why we chose this league. One, is that there is no condition to be in a new stadium, unlike MLS,” Silva said. “In MLS, there is a condition to be in a new stadium, which I respect, but I think that in some cities, it can make sense, while in other cities, this obligation really doesn’t work well. In Miami there are three stadiums, very nice stadiums, and you can move into one of these stadiums. I don’t think there is the need of a fourth stadium for Miami.
“This was the first reason why we choose NASL. The second reason is the NASL gives independence to their teams. The team is yours. The players are your team. The brand is yours. You just sign up to play in the championship of the league. We just liked this kind of independence.”
Now firmly implanted in Miami with a team building all around him, Silva is beginning to see daylight when it comes to putting his vision to practice. The Miami FC owner is excited at the prospect of getting things off the ground and running while counting the days until his team takes the field.
Yet, Silva knows that, like the game as a whole in the U.S., Miami FC will take time to fully reach its potential.
“It won’t happen in five years or 10 years or maybe even 15 years,” said Silva “I think it will take one generation, 20-25 years, not less, but I think slowly we’re heading in that direction.
“It’s something exciting to start something smaller which we know or we expect to become bigger. This is why we did it.”