Fort Lauderdale Strikers Up For Sale Amid Turmoil

IMAGE, NASL.COM

by JAKE NUTTING

Less than two years after being sold off by Traffic Sports, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers are reportedly on the market once again.

Recent reports indicate the NASL club’s Brazilian ownership has hung a for sale sign in the midst of a tumultuous second season in charge. The Sun Sentinel’s Pedro Heizer first revealed the development last week, and The Guardian has subsequently posted an in-depth look at the situation in Fort Lauderdale.

EoS has also heard similar reports from various sources.

Included in the Guardian’s report was a statement from Strikers Managing Director Luis Cuccati acknowledging that the club is currently evaluating the makeup of its ownership.

“We are reviewing our current ownership situation and speaking with potential partners so that we can craft the best plan possible to move towards our goal of building a world-class soccer club,” Cuccati told the Guardian.

There was much hope for the Strikers when Brazilian entrepreneur Paul Cesso took control of the club in late 2014 and brought on legendary striker Ronaldo as a minority owner. Faith is close to non-existent for the ownership group in the final stretch of this year’s Fall Season, though.

The biggest cause for concern for the South Florida club has been the its failure to pay employees and vendors on time throughout the year. The club chalked up the payroll embarrassment earlier in the summer to delays in transferring funds from Brazil and vowed that it was a one-off occurrence, but the problem has persisted. Players and staff members were once again left waiting on a paycheck at the start of September.

As a result of the frustrations with paychecks, EoS has learned that agents for players of the Strikers have unsurprisingly been hard at work trying to get their players out of Fort Lauderdale all summer. This has lead to the club selling off one of the league’s most dynamic players in PC and keeper Diego Restrepo to the rival Tampa Bay Rowdies this Fall Season.

Another issue facing the Strikers is the apparent downward spiral of interest within the market for the club. As one of the NASL clubs owned by Traffic Sports for several years, the Strikers never pulled in eye-popping numbers for their matches. They averaged an announced attendance between 3,000 and 4,000 during their time in the league, but this year’s nosedive is alarming. The club if averaging just a little over 1,00o for the year and announced that a mere 455 were in attendance for a recent weeknight match.

While the Strikers front office touted a plan to grow the brand globally this past offseason with a trip to China, they’ve turned off many of the supporters in their own backyard. Along with what sources have indicated is a general lack of knowledge of South Florida and American Soccer in general, the club’s reliance on Ronaldo’s celebrity status as an attraction in spite of his continued absence has left a bad taste in the mouth of some of the most diehard supporters.

“[Ronaldo] was never here,” Heizer told the Guardian. “The Strikers didn’t advertise much but when they did it tended to include Ronaldo. I think that might have got to people because they never saw him.”

  • david t

    don’t know who would bother to buy that sinking ship?

    • Leo Glickman

      hopefully someone. This country needs more, not fewer, soccer clubs.

      • jwright

        we don’t need more soccer clubs in places we already have them like Miami, NYC market, etc. It will just cannibalize fans and interest, and end up a net negative for soccer in the US like some of the sad displays from nasl teams such as relegated rayo, Ft. Lauderdale not paying their people, etc.

        • Leo Glickman

          The more jobs we have for professional soccer players, the more people we have out there scouting and attracting young local talent, the better it is for American soccer. That’s the stuff of successful soccer countries.

          • William

            Something that the NASL is a strong forward thinking commissioner – Peterson must go !

  • rebel fighter

    Will the league get past 12 teams? Starting to bored.

    • rebel fighter

      fell asleep. Starting to get bored I meant to say.

  • Peter pan

    So the Miami area will have 3 teams?
    Interesting, someone should buy the strikers and take them to usl, then affiliate them with Miami MLS.

  • Pancho villa

    The reality is , you got to invest , to get fill those seats … And it starts with the players you bring in . a 3 million dollar budget will not get you fans in . especially if you are trying to hit the Spanish market in Florida. Yes the striker used to fill 45,000 fans a game , but it was a different generation . more people watched soccer , better ratings better players came over than now…. It all starts on the field , what product they want to put

  • Arsenal10023

    The NASL should stop with the foreign ownership groups already…..get some US citizens with money and business “know how”. Even then, minor league soccer is a tough sell.

  • Jon Shaker

    Attendance would be better if they didn’t jack up the prices on their longtime season ticket holders.

    • OpenCupFan

      How much was the mark up this season from last year? Or even a couple years ago?

      Thanks.

  • Jim Beam

    The league itself is in trouble, though nobody wants to admit it. The Strikers and Rayo OKC don’t have any money. Ottawa is talking about going to the USL or the proposed CPL in a couple of years and will probably take Edmonton with them.

    SF is coming in next year but they will just be replacing Minnesota. Even Miami is spending alot of money right now, but those owners will get tired of losing money and pull back just like the Cosmos owners did.

    Seems like the NASL is pinning its hopes on getting D1 status, which isn’t going to happen and even if it did, it wouldn’t change anything.

  • Mike

    The central broward cricket stadium is only a temporary solution at best. The non payments to players and employees rumors have been traveling all season long. Lockhart stadium needs to be blown up and a new stadium needs to be built from the ground up. There are multiple problems with this. 1. The strikers are not worthy of a new stadium because of the lack of proper fan support. 2. The plan for the new stadium to coincide with the opening of a brand new water park has hit roadblocks every year since 2010 when the idea came to light. And there is no idea when the final roadblock will be gone since lawsuits can drag on for ever and ever. 3. Fort Lauderdale / broward county cannot properly support another loser sports franchise. The Florida panthers hockey franchise (who plays 20 minutes to the west) were so close this past season to getting their balls cut off that if it wasn’t for the millions poured in over the past decade broward would have gladly opened the door for them to leave. I am a fan of the strikers and would be sad to see them go, but its clear to me that US soccer and major media have no interest in seeing the nasl succeed. Any successful NASL franchise has either jumped ship to MLS or will jump as soon as possible. I do not believe that us soccer wants a relegation system because the MLS does not want a relegation system. Since MLS clubs own most of the usl clubs its clear to me that the NASL should get out of the way. The no-cap system they operate on is not enough to attract star players since there is very little media attention. Also the NASL didn’t do the strikers any favors when they awarded another franchise to play in Miami after the strikers moved from there a few years ago. That was very short sighted. If David Beckham’s star status can’t get a pro soccer franchise off the ground in Miami, what makes the nasl think they would be able to after trying with Miami fc which eventually became the strikers? No sports franchise will work in south Florida if: 1. Ownership not committed to winning 2. A lack of proper venue for games 3. Lack of quality stars and 4. The lack of a winning product.

  • OpenCupFan

    Why do #bushLEAGUEmls fans and reserve league USL fans spend more time on NASL and Cosmos related articles then on their own league?
    .
    Seems to me they’re afraid they’re fake leagues and franchises can’t handle competition.

    • Daddy O

      Lol, yeah your right. The MLS and USL are scared to death of capacity crowds numbering in the 2,000-3,000 range & frightened beyond belief of teams that can’t pay their staff.

      The smartest thing the NASL could do is look to merge with the USL. Otherwise the NASL is a sinking ship.

      NASL=USFL.

      • mattk

        MLS and USL is also very afraid of relegated rayo since pro/rel is great! and it is so positive that half their field was taken away, they also can’t pay their people, and they are now being run by like 3 people total — MLS is quaking in its boots since the canadian teams are also leaving the league soon…

  • Rest of World

    This is just ugly.

  • People in South Florida simply want first division soccer and that is questionable if they would support year after year after the glam of David Beckham washes away.