Major League Soccer announced a South Florida team in 1997 as one of its first two expansions, along with the Chicago Fire. Miami businessman Ken Horowitz served as owner, the first new investor to join Major League Soccer since its founding in 1995. The team ultimately named the Miami Fusion, debuted in the 1998 MLS season, playing in Lockhart Stadium, the league’s first soccer-specific stadium.
The Fusion started their inaugural season strong. Led by star midfielder Carlos Valderrama, the Fusion drew 20,450 to their first game at Lockhart Stadium against D.C. United, showing off the possibilities of a more intimate venue designed especially for soccer. Another 3,000 were turned away by police. However, interest waned through the year along with the team’s middling performance on the field. The Fusion replaced head coach Carlos “Cacho” Cordoba with Ivo Wortmann after game 19, and the team managed a playoff spot, losing to D.C. By the end of the year, their average attendance had dropped to 10,284.
MLS announced in January 2002 that it had decided to close the two Florida franchises, the Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Both teams were withdrawn from the league, ceased operations, and folded. Major League Soccer’s contraction reduced the league from 12 to 10 teams. The league had chosen to fold the Miami Fusion, in part because the Fusion’s ownership reportedly lacked financial resources, had been trying to run the Fusion on a bare-minimum budget, and had asked the league to pay some of the club’s expenses. Commissioner Garber stated that the Fusion had the lowest revenue in the league, due to fewer season tickets and almost no revenue from corporate sponsorships.
Miami ownership had reportedly experienced $15 million in operating losses since Miami joined the league. The Fusion’s owner, Ken Horowitz, described several difficulties with operating an MLS soccer franchise in South Florida. Many Miami residents were not originally from the area and didn’t identify with and support local sports teams. Additionally, the MLS season is in the summer, which is different from the youth soccer season, making it difficult to draw youth soccer teams to attend Fusion matches. There were also issues with local summertime heat and rain. Finally, Horowitz identified a lack of corporate support for the team.
Fusion played in Major League Soccer (MLS) for four seasons, from 1998 to 2001. Announced in 1997 as one of the league’s first two expansion teams, their best season was 2001, when they won the Supporters’ Shield with the best regular season finish. In 2002, after four years of lackluster ticket sales and revenues, MLS contracted the Fusion along with its other Florida-based team, the Tampa Bay Mutiny. The Fusion played their home games at Lockhart Stadium.
1998 – 2001 / Major League Soccer
1998 – 2001 / Miami Fusion Football Club
Fusion – Named after the Florida heat.
MLS Cups 0
1998 – 2001 / Lockhart Stadium
1998 – 2002 / Ken Horowitz
*Blue is this team’s history