How U.S. Soccer Ensures The Fort Lauderdale Strikers Never Get A Chance

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Last year, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers were purchased by a Brazilian consortium looking to turn the team into a "global powerhouse." Some of their bandied-about strategies for ginning up fan interest include drone-delivered concessions at the stadium, piggy backing off the club's history from the NASL's heyday to gain foreign fans, and most intriguingly, perhaps lining up club co-owner Fat/Real Ronaldo in the starting XI.

The Guardian has a good breakdown of some of the ownership group's plans for world domination. The highest profile one, obviously, is the possibility that Ronaldo might be able to show off some of the real athleticism he's retained and make it out onto the pitch. The striker whose career was often hampered by injuries and is now hampered by his prodigious appetite seemed hopeful about the prospects of slimming down and getting back to his true love:


Their other two hot ideas—making the club global and delivering beer by drone—are probably a little less likely. The former plays off the old Strikers teams back in the late '70s-early '80s, when the team featured an assortment of formerly great Europeans making the rounds in America. (Not too much has changed, really.) The latter is, well, probably just a cool-sounding thought:

"Since we have Brazilian roots, we are already working to make the Strikers the favorite American team in Brazil. After that, we will focus on Germany where we have a good awareness with Gerd Muller and England – motherland of George Best [sic] and Gordon Banks," said co-owner Rafael Bertani in an online Q&A with fans.

Managing partner Ricardo Geromel, a fresh-faced 27-year-old, said this week he is looking into having drones fly over Lockhart Stadium during games to deliver beer to fans in the stands.


The real determinant here, like it always is in this sport, is how much money they're willing to spend, and how wisely they spend it. But why should they bother when the rewards are so limited? The likelihood of the Strikers making much noise outside the orphaned second-tier league that is NASL is small, and will be smaller still if a group of owners headlined by David Beckham successfully bring an MLS team to Miami.

This is the real shame of America's lack of promotion and relegation. That system allows ambitious owners to buy up lower division clubs for not too much money, invest in them in ways they believe will bring sporting success, and potentially, reach the pinnacle of the pyramid. It allows for innovation, like the Strikers' plans for international fame or the New York Cosmos' announced strategy of bringing in good players from abroad but mainly focusing on finding and developing the best youth talent. But without the possibility of promotion, there's a ceiling on the return on these clubs' investments, and in turn the number of clubs with the ability to improve the game as a whole.


In the other direction, the lack of relegation protects MLS franchises like the Red Bulls—whose new owners are dropping costs like Ronaldo needs to drop pounds—or the (possibly) pending Miami team from any real risks of competition. The status quo benefits the bulk of MLS owners happy with low costs, low risks, and an appreciating asset, but hamstrings nearly everyone else.

The Strikers aren't afraid to meet their challengers head to head, though. Along with the Cosmos and potentially more teams like them, they hope their success can put pressure on U.S. Soccer to open up the pyramid. Alternately, they dream of a day when NASL, with its lack of salary restrictions, could surpass MLS in quality. To all comers, and especially to Beckham and his crew, they merely want the right to settle things on the field:

"If the underwear model is able to put a team together, it would be a pleasure to face them on the pitch," [Geromel] said.