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Rumours: Fort Lauderdale in the A-League 2005


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This rumour is according to a South Florida soccer discussion forum...

A real team effort


With the news that the United States under-20 team will play Brazil at Lockhart Stadium next month comes word that the stadium may have a permanent tenant in 2005.

Soccer promoter Eddie Rodger, who is staging the U.S.-Brazil game with Miami-based Traffic USA and U.S. Soccer, said he's in discussions with a prospective investor to field an A-League franchise in Fort Lauderdale beginning next season.

Rodger, whose 25-year involvement in South Florida soccer dates back to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, said he's working with ex-Striker star and former Fusion coach Ray Hudson on the project. This is Rodger's second attempt to land an A-League team since the Fusion's demise. But where the first effort faltered, this one may stick.

Rodger declined to specify who he was talking with, but described the group as "very serious" and, from the sound of it, ambitious.

"These are not first-timers," Rodger said. "These are people that know the game, and they know the market very well. They're looking to make a long-term investment in building an A-league franchise to MLS caliber in South Florida."

Rodger held extensive talks with an Argentine group last year, but the partnership broke off in November. The current effort gained momentum with the staging of two friendlies at Lockhart last month, both of which drew in excess of 9,000 fans.

The impressive, if not overwhelming, midweek turnouts (for the U.S. under-20s-Haiti select and Honduras-Ecuador) were augmented by a generally well-run game-day operation under Rodger's company KICS International. One of the appeals for placing an A-League team at Lockhart is Rodger's ability to generate revenues by staging international friendlies.

"The potential investors came to both games, and they were very impressed with both events," Rodger said.

"There are still a lot of things that have to fall in place," Rodger cautioned. "Discussions are being held with the league about Tampa as well, which would bring both of us in at the same time. It would be more viable and sensible to do it if both teams come in; in terms of travel costs, competition with the rivalry and the division setup."

Hudson deferred when asked to comment, saying he'll have something to add when the project is further along. Clearly, however, his focus is on working with Rodger to place a new team at Lockhart. Hudson has been involved in meetings with the interested investor and recently turned down an offer to become the color commentator for the San Jose Earthquakes.

Bishop's move

In an interview posted on Manchester City's Web site, former Fusion midfielder Ian Bishop said he'll set up residence in Florida after completing a season as player-coach with the New Orleans Shell Shockers in the Professional Development League.

Bishop, 39, told Man City, where he had two stints in an 18-year English League career, that he "loved" his time in South Florida and would look to get involved with an A-League team next year, should there be one. He sold the pub he owned in Southport, England, and is working to move his wife, Jane, and their three kids stateside.

Bring on Brazil

United States under-20 coach Thomas Rongen reports that $5,500 was donated to the Nicole Megaloudis Foundation from the April 21 friendly between the U.S. and Haiti select.

Megaloudis, 19, who played at Virginia Commonwealth, died in a February car accident.

The evening was so splendid, from the money raised in honor of his stepdaughter to the enthusiastic response from fans, that Rongen said it may become an annual event.

"We want to do it again next year, be it with the under-20s or an MLS team," he said. "It's going to happen because of the response."

Rongen's U-20s will play Brazil on June 16 at Lockhart. By that time, Freddy Adu will have turned 15.

"I know I am, and I'm sure the team is looking forward to the challenge of playing Brazil in a place that treated us very well the last time we were there," Rongen said. "It could be even better in terms of spectators and the level of the game."

Tickets for the U.S.-Brazil under-20 match will be $10 for youths, $20 for adults.




Real Miami2008

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