It has been a long time coming, but the newest Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise on the block is aiming to cement itself as a credible team in the months ahead. Inter Miami CF made its MLS debut on March 1 against Los Angeles FC, going down to a narrow 1-0 defeat, but the Herons have not yet had a chance to bounce back from their debut loss. Since November 2012, aspirations have existed to provide an MLS team for Miami’s metropolitan area. When David Beckham took up his option to part-own an MLS expansion team in 2013, Miami proved to be the number-one option.
This spring was the culmination of six years of hard graft and effort to prepare the club for the MLS. A slender 1-0 loss to Los Angeles FC – a squad managed by former US head coach Bob Bradley and containing stars like Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Brian Rodriguez – was nothing to be embarrassed about. The most frustrating thing has been their inability to quickly set the record straight, but the return of MLS action via the rebranded 26-team “MLS Is Back Tournament” will be the perfect tonic.
Beckham’s Inter Miami will also have the honor of kick-starting the new MLS event at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, coming up against state neighbors Orlando City on July 8. There is palpable excitement among many of the US’ leading sportsbooks, with the likes of FOX Bet gearing up their fully regulated betting apps on Android and iOS to enable fans to make pre-game and in-play MLS wagers on the move. A draw for the initial group stage of the tournament was made, putting all 26 teams into six groups, with Miami grouped with new rivals Orlando, as well as New York City, Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union and Nashville SC.
Miami: Ambitious to strengthen their roster prior to Orlando meeting
The Herons’ new sporting director, Paul McDonough, has spoken out about the franchise’s ambition to strengthen the squad ahead of this new tournament. McDonough confirmed that he left room “to add players” at the start of the year and the franchise had “cap flexibility” to bring in new faces “before [they] play in Orlando”. The newly-formed Inter Miami roster started the MLS campaign with only two Designated Players in the shape of Mexican ace Rodolfo Pizarro and Argentine rookie Matias Pellegrini. McDonough said that the remaining DP slot “will be an attacking player”, which will “give [them] a lot of flexibility”.
Inter Miami certainly have some ambitious plans on the horizon. Although they may not be potential MLS Cup winners in the next couple of years, the roster will take some time to evolve and bed in. Beckham and co. have their eyes set on legendary Spanish central defender Sergio Ramos. The Real Madrid icon is considering a proposal to join Miami in 2022 after the World Cup in Qatar, reuniting him with his former Madrid teammate.
Could Ramos be the catalyst for Miami that Kaka was for Orlando City?
A report derived from the Spanish media suggests that the deal would be a free transfer, making it a very beneficial deal financially for the Herons. Ramos would be fast approaching the end of his career at this point, aged 37, but he could certainly provide some experience and exposure for the Inter Miami brand for at least a couple of seasons. Ramos is desperate to break the record for the most La Liga appearances by an individual, previously set by fellow Real icon Raul (741) and he is currently around 100 games short.
It’s safe to say that the Herons’ current squad is a largely uninspiring mixture of journeymen. Former St Mirren and Celtic midfielder Lewis Morgan has made the move from Glasgow to Florida, having failed to cement a place in the Celtic squad. The roster is littered with a handful of other proven homegrown talents, namely Wil Trapp, Grant Lillard and Jay Chapman, but whether this will be enough to pull up any trees in their opening season remains to be seen.