By Joel Delgado ’12, MS ’17
Major League Soccer is coming to Miami – and to FIU, specifically – for at least one night.
Miami FC, a professional soccer team in the North American Soccer League (NASL) that plays its home games at FIU, is hosting Atlanta United FC of MLS in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Riccardo Silva Stadium on Wednesday, June 28.
The match marks the first time that a team from MLS, the top-flight professional soccer league in the United States, will play in an official game at FIU. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“Having an MLS team, the first to play in South Florida in over 15 years, play the top NASL team in Miami FC at Riccardo Silva Stadium is huge for all soccer fans in South Florida,” said FIU Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment Pete Garcia.
The U.S. Open Cup is a single elimination knockout tournament played every year between May and September, featuring 64 teams from all levels of the American soccer pyramid, from MLS teams to amateur clubs.
Founded in 1914, it is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the United States and the third-longest running soccer tournament in the world.
Miami FC is the last NASL team still standing in this year’s U.S. Open Cup and is determined to make a deep run. The winner of the tournament automatically qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League and receives $250,000.
“This is a very important match for this club and the city of Miami,” said Miami FC Head Coach Alessandro Nesta. “We always want to test ourselves against the best that the U.S. has to offer and the U.S. Open Cup allows us to do that.”
In the fourth round of this year’s tournament, Miami FC delivered one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far against Orlando City S.C. (MLS). In Orlando, Miami FC stunned the Lions, with a 3-1 victory thanks to three goals by Brazilian striker Stephano Pinho.
Following the fourth round, the remaining 16 teams in the tournament were drawn into four regions. Miami FC is in the South region, which features the Chicago Fire and Atlanta United FC of MLS and FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League.
Atlanta United FC, in the midst of their inaugural season, brings their MLS-best offense to Miami, featuring a trio of dangerous scorers: midfielders Miguel Almirón and Hector Villalba and Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez. Together, they have flourished under former Argentinian national team and FC Barcelona head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
A Miami FC victory on Wednesday night means the team would host the winner of the Chicago Fire vs. FC Cincinnati match in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals in July at FIU’s Riccardo Silva Stadium.
“Atlanta United has a very dangerous attack and has a lot to prove as they are a new club, like us,” added Nesta. “We are in great form right now and I have a lot of confidence in my team going into this match.”
Before the 2017 season began, Miami FC co-owner Riccardo Silva helped usher in significant improvements to the stadium, including the installation of a new playing field and a new video board that replaced the existing scoreboard on the east side of the stadium. The stadium was renamed in his honor earlier this year, recognizing his significant financial support of the FIU Athletic Department since 2015.
This season, the team has enjoyed tremendous success. Miami FC enters Wednesday night’s match riding a 13-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and sits comfortably atop the NASL standings, dangerously close to clinching the league’s spring season title.
To purchase tickets for Miami FC’s match against Atlanta United FC at FIU and learn more about the team, click here.