Miami is on everyone’s radar at the moment, not a surprise, with Lionel Messi arriving in the city earlier in the year to start his new adventure with Inter Miami. For the current generation of youngsters they might have no idea of the past, with just Lionel Messi in their eyes.
Inter Miami started their MLS adventure in 2020, with their first game taking place on the 1st March losing 1-0 away to Los Angeles FC. David Beckham is an co-owner as well as president.
Good results have not really be seen so far, with former England international and women coach Phil Neville being their boss from 18th of January 2021 to 1st of June 2023. The current head coach is Gerardo Martino, as the team struggles 2nd to bottom of the Eastern Division.
Lionel Messi is of course the big attraction at present, at a club in build, as they are far from a finished article. Messi (36) has so far played 6 games and scored 1 goal in MLS. He is still representing Argentina, and at present out on international duty, as his count of 178 caps and 106 goals is ever so phenomenal. So far in the MLS, Messi’s experience is 3 wins, 2 defeats and 1 draw.
Looking back and before the foundation of Inter Miami, other clubs have been playing professional football in the city, as interesting facts appear, with Inter Miami playing their games in Fort Lauderdale.
A new stadium, Miami Freedom Park, is under construction as work started in August 2023, with the purpose of getting it finalized by the start of the 2025 MLS season.
A former club named Miami Fusion also played their games in Fort Lauderdale, having a life in MLS from 1997 to 2001. “Miami” had no participation
Fort Lauderdale Strikers as a club was last dissolved in 2016, Tampa Bay Rowdies is today competing in USL Championship, seen as level two in US soccer. Going back and tracking “Miami” before Inter and Fusion, you have to go far. You will find a team called Miami Toros, playing in NASL from 1973 to 1976.
Miami Toros had previously been named Miami Gatos, being the first known professional soccer team in the state of Florida, and in the city of Miami, being relocated from Washington in 1972, previously known as Washington Darts. Miamo Gatos played in a purple shirts, white shorts and white stockings.
The star of the team was Warren Archibald. A striker from Trinidad and Tobago, scoring 14 goals in 43 games for Washington Darts, 6 for Gatos in 14 games, later with Toros, adding up 21 goals in 21 games. Archibald played 15 internationals for his nation, scoring 8 goals, from his debut in 1968 until 1976.
As the team made a name change and became Miami Toros in 1973, they also added a number of new and well known players. David Sadler, Jim Holton and Chris Lawler all appeared for the club. Sadler and Lawler, two former England internationals and players at Man Utd (DS) and Liverpool (CL). Jim Holton, especially known for his time at Man Utd had just appeared in the 1974 World Cup with Scotland when he joined up.
Warren Archibald was undoubtly the star of the house, but also new signing from Scottish club Cowdenbeath, Ronnie Sharp, became a clear fans favourite, assisting Archibald and playing some memorable and fantastic games for Miami Toros. Sharp is also one of few British players to appear in Mexican top flight as he turned out for San Luis. Sharp was named in the 1975 NASL All Star team.
Miami Toros with Ronnie Sharp in the team became a massive hit, going all the way to the 1974 Soccer Bowl final, facing Los Angeles Aztecs. The game was played in Miami Orange Bowl, Ronnie Sharp was the Miami Toros captain, and it all ended with a defeat in the shoot outs. The final had 15,507 spectators with Sharp a major attraction.
Sharp was still with Miamo Toros when they in 1977 became Fort Lauderdale Strikers, to become a major club in NASL with players such as Gerd Muller, George Best, Gordon Banks and Teofilo Cubillas as known stars in the red, black and yellow jersey.
The life of Ronnie Sharp was not always about “soccer” as his off-field distractions often led to different outcomes few had seen coming. From borrowing money from his team mates back in Cowdenbeath to use it on gambling, champagne and parties, but also marrying a mexican girl, building a good business, owning a football club, but an involvement in a drug deal made him “persona non grata”.
He often returned to his home in Scotland, and in the 90’s, Cowdenbeath held a Sportsman’s Dinner at Lochgelly Town Hall to raise funds to help send the youth team to Sweden to play in the Gothia Cup. On the eve of the event, the phone at Central Park rang and someone asked if he could take a table at the event. The name Ronnie Sharp rang no bells with new owner Gordon McDougall but it turned out to be the bold boy himself. A huge sum was raised on the night mainly due to the generous auction bids made by Ronnie Sharp and the friends at his table; £50 notes were being bandied around like confetti. It was his last contact with The Blue Brazil.
There are good soccer traditions in the area of Miami, with a possible future to produce players from your own neighbourhood, if and when the Messi effect is gone as we do feel it will be a tall order for the 36 year old to continue for the long future.
We have seen the rebirth of American Soccer done in different decades as Pelè took the 70’s, Beckham in the early years of this century and Messi now clearly the man to bring the game “over there” into a new and very exciting chapter, but as long as the best talents do move into other sports, soccer will suffer to become a leading attraction, as they clearly are, on the women side. Seeing their females getting bigger and stronger headlines being a leading act as World Cup and Olympic winners are many.