Michelle Kaufman writes an open letter to Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber saying that she too would be skeptical about a franchise bid from Miami given the city's history with soccer franchises. "We saw the Fusion -- and teams before it -- flop like a well-trained Italian forward," she writes. "We know this is a complicated, fractured place where residents' roots and sports loyalties are not necessarily planted in Miami-Dade County soil."
But despite all the usual reservations about selling an American brand of soccer in such an internationally savvy market, she tells Garber that "this bid you just received is different from anything this city has offered before. For one thing, this bid is backed by FC Barcelona." She even quotes the high priest of hyperbole, former Fusion coach Ray Hudson, to back the bid up.
"The royalty of royalties," Hudson enthused, and that was just for starters. "You have to make an exception when Barcelona comes knocking at your door. It's gargantuan. This is way beyond signing one poster boy. This is Barcelona investing in American soccer, which would raise its credibility with fans and players all over the world."
Barcelona President Joan Laporta, who was in Miami last week for the announcement of the franchise bid, said that the Catalan club was not just slapping its name on a Miami team, rather "we want a strong presence in America, and we plan to embrace this team and make it one of the best in MLS. We want to win." Kaufman also cites billionaire Bolivian businessman Marcelo Claure as the perfect partner for Barcelona, and lauds Florida International University's stadium as an ideal venue for the team, "where the built-in fan base lives, not to mention the thousands of FIU students from all over Latin America who will be able to walk to games on their campus."