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2011-2016 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

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Fort Lauderdale StrikersNorth American Soccer League (2011-2016)

Born: February 17, 2011 – Re-branded from Miami FC
Folded: January 2017

Stadia: 

Team Colors:

Owners:

Soccer Bowl Championships: None

 

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers of 2011-2016 were the latest in a series of nostalgic revivals of the original Strikers (1977-1983) of the old North American Soccer League.  The 1970’s-era Strikers were a blast. They imported World Cup superstars like George Best, Gerd Muller and Teofilo Cubillas to wear their iconic red & yellow hoop kits. “I’m a Striker Liker” t-shirts and bumper stickers popped up all over town. And they were pretty damn good at their peak. The 1980 Strikers squad played the mighty New York Cosmos in Soccer Bowl ’80 before 50,000 at RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital.

The subsequent editions of the Strikers have been rather less sexy. The 2011-2016 version played the nostalgia card the hardest and was the most ambitious of the revival acts. But persistent ownership troubles eventually doomed the club.

The franchise started out in 2006 as Miami FC in the lower-division United Soccer Leagues (USL). Miami FC was owned and operated by the spectacularly corrupt soccer marketing firm Traffic Sports USA. The club played at Tropical Park to small crowds of around 1,000 per match in the USL First Division.

Miami FC was a disaster,” the club’s former Communications Director, Kartik Krishnaiyer, told The Miami New Times in a 2015 expose of Traffic Sport and its chief executive Aaron Davidson.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2011In 2009, Davidson led a breakaway faction of USL owners to form a new North American Soccer League. Davidson, an intense, workaholic deal maker, painted a vision of a rebel league, freed from the red tape of salary caps, that could take down Major League Soccer.. As part of the move to the NASL (itself a nostalgic brand re-boot), Traffic Sports re-branded Miami FC as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in early 2011. Davidson also shifted the team from Miami to Lockhart Stadium, home of the original disco-era Strikers.

After a year of lawsuits with the USL and negotiations with the United States Soccer Federation over 2nd Division status, the NASL launched in April 2011. Despite never finishing better than 4th place in an NASL season, the Strikers made it to the Soccer Bowl championship twice. The 2011 Soccer Bowl was a two-leg aggregate goals series against the NSC Minnesota Stars. After dropping the first leg 3-1 in Minnesota, the Strikers returned to Lockhart Stadium for the deciding match on October 29, 2011. A crowd of 6,849 watched the Strikers and the Stars play to a scoreless draw, which handled the title to Minnesota.

The Strikers returned to the Soccer Bowl final in 2014. By this time, the NASL had changed the format to a single match. The Strikers lost to the San Antonio Scorpions 2-1 at Toyota Field in San Antonio on November 15, 2014.

In the fall of 2014, as the club pushed towards its second Soccer Bowl appearance, Traffic Sports USA sold the Strikers to a Brazilian ownership consortium headed by Paulo Cesso. The Brazilians soon introduced former World Cup star Ronaldo as part of the ownership group in January 2015. There were hints that the 39-year old icon, five years retired, might suit up for the Strikers in 2015. Nothing ever came of it. Ronaldo’s local appearances on behalf of the Strikers were few and far between.

The new owners tinkered extensively with the club. They dismissed popular coach Gunter Kronsteiner and rebuilt the roster with Brazilian imports. After the team floundered under new coach Marcelo Neveleff during the NASL’s spring 2015 season, the owners brought Kronsteiner back to coach the Fall 2015 schedule. Then they fired Kronsteiner again five months later.

Midway through the 2016 season, the Strikers moved out of Lockhart Stadium to the smaller, cheaper Central Broward Stadium. Player paychecks began to arrive late. Attendance crashed 70% in 2016 to a league-worst 1,331 per match. In late summer, the Strikers owners announced that they would not put any more money into the club. Bill Edwards, owner of the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies club, loaned the Strikers over a half million dollars to keep them afloat in the summer of 2016. The Strikers never repaid Edwards and laid off the remainder of the front office staff in December 2016, handing them rubber settlement checks on the way out the door.

No formal announcement was made of the Strikers’ closure. When the NASL announced the league’s upcoming spring schedule in January 2017, the Strikers were not included. Rowdies owner Bill Edwards obtained judgments against the defunct club in May 2017 and forced the team’s assets to be sold in an online foreclosure auction. Edwards them bought up the rights to the team’s intellectual property for $5,100, officially bringing down the curtain on (perhaps) the last of many iterations of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

 

Fort Lauderdale Strikers Shop


Soccerwarz: Inside America’s Soccer Feud Between MLS, NASL and USL by Kartik Krishnaiyer
KINDLE Edition

 

Strikers Video

Behind-the-scenes promo video of the Strikers’ 2015 home opener against the New York Cosmos at Lockhart Stadium. Footage follows Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, who became a part-owner of the club several months earlier.

 

Links

North American Soccer League Programs

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