Inter Miami CF, also known as Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, is a professional soccer team located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the United States. Established in 2018, the club became a member of the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS) starting from the 2020 season. Inter Miami CF currently hosts its MLS home matches at DRV PNK Stadium, situated on the former Lockhart Stadium site.
Founding and Expansion
In November 2012, the MLS commissioner, Don Garber, announced the league’s renewed interest in bringing an expansion franchise to Miami, following the dissolution of the Miami Fusion in 2001 and an unsuccessful expansion attempt in 2009 led by Marcelo Claure and FC Barcelona. The discussion gained momentum when former soccer star David Beckham, who had the option to purchase an expansion team at a cost of $25 million, concluded his playing career in April 2013. The league engaged in preliminary talks with Beckham’s advisors, exploring Miami as a potential expansion target. This same year, other investors like Alessandro Butini and Stephen M. Ross also expressed interest in owning a Miami-based franchise.
In December 2013, MLS commissioner Garber mentioned David Beckham and Simon Fuller as possible owners of a Miami team. Following that, Miami-Dade County commissioners unanimously approved negotiations with Beckham’s group for a new stadium in downtown Miami. On February 5, 2014, Beckham exercised his option to own an expansion franchise, forming Miami Beckham United, an investment consortium including Beckham, Fuller, and Claure. The team presented working titles like “Miami Vice” and “Miami Current” during presentations. However, it was emphasized that expansion approval depended on securing a downtown stadium plan. In 2019, Beckham bought out Fuller’s share.
On January 29, 2018, the Miami Beckham United group, including Beckham, Claure, Fuller, Masayoshi Son (founder and CEO of SoftBank), and Jorge and José Mas (leaders of telecommunications and construction company MasTec), was granted the twenty-fifth MLS franchise. The team officially launched in the 2020 season. The ownership group was later renamed Miami Freedom Park LLC, and on September 5, 2018, the club’s official name, Inter Miami CF, was revealed.
Early Years (2020–2023)
Inter Miami CF’s first MLS match was held on March 1, 2020, resulting in a 1-0 loss to Los Angeles FC. Rodolfo Pizarro, a Designated Player, scored the team’s first-ever goal in the subsequent match, although they lost 2-1 to D.C. United. The team’s first home game, initially scheduled for March 14, 2020, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite challenges, the team recorded its first franchise victory on August 23, 2020, with a 3-2 win over Orlando City.
Throughout its early years, Inter Miami CF underwent coaching changes and ownership adjustments. Notably, the team was sanctioned for violating roster rules during the 2020 season, leading to fines and penalties. The team’s fortunes took a turn in 2023 with the arrival of Lionel Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who joined as a Designated Player and brought newfound attention and success to the club.
The Messi Era (2023–Present)
On June 1, 2023, Inter Miami CF parted ways with head coach Phil Neville after struggling in the Eastern Conference. Four days later, Lionel Messi, one of the most decorated footballers in history, announced his decision to join Inter Miami CF as a free agent, choosing the club over other offers. Messi’s signing was a significant event, and he officially became part of the team on July 15, 2023, through a Designated Player contract that extended until the 2025 MLS season. Argentine coach Tata Martino was appointed as the head coach, and Messi was unveiled alongside former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. The arrival of Messi sparked an extraordinary surge in ticket sales and fan engagement, culminating in a Leagues Cup victory for the club on August 19, 2023.
Stadium and Identity
Inter Miami CF’s identity is deeply tied to its name, colors, and crest. The club was initially formed as Miami Beckham United before adopting the name Inter Miami CF. The team’s crest features two white herons, an eclipse, and the city’s Art Deco influence. Pink, black, and white are the team’s primary colors, with pink distinguishing it as the only major professional sports team in North America with this color. The crest’s birds were initially a subject of debate, later confirmed to be white herons.
Stadium: Miami Freedom Park
Starting from March 2020, Inter Miami initiated its matches in Fort Lauderdale, and this arrangement will persist until the completion of their new stadium known as Miami Freedom Park. The proposed Miami Freedom Park stadium will seat 25,000 spectators and is part of the broader Freedom Park complex, situated on the current grounds of the Melreese Country Club, owned by the city, in close proximity to Miami International Airport. The construction approval hinged on the outcome of a public referendum held on November 6, 2018. The referendum saw around 60 percent of voters favoring the conversion of the city-owned golf course into Inter Miami CF’s Miami Freedom Park stadium.
This envisioned development will span 131 acres of public land and encompass 1,000,000 square feet of mixed office, retail, and commercial space, along with 750 hotel rooms. The site will also house 23 acres of public soccer fields in addition to the 10.5-acre stadium. The remaining 58 acres will be dedicated to a public park. The team’s owners have committed to providing annual payments of $20 million for three decades to enhance public parks across the city. However, the agreement still requires the approval of a supermajority vote from four out of five City of Miami commissioners. Various details, including the resolution of issues like toxic incinerator ash in the soil, remain to be finalized.
This decision follows an extensive exploration of potential locations. Previous options included Dodge Island at PortMiami (2013), the Downtown Miami waterfront at Museum Park (2014), a site near MLB’s Marlins Park (2015), a privately owned site in Miami’s Overtown (2015–16), and the Riccardo Silva Stadium at Florida International University. The team also evaluated the Riccardo Silva Stadium at Florida International University.
DRV PNK Stadium
The DRV PNK Stadium is a soccer stadium situated in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, replacing the former Lockhart Stadium. The stadium’s orientation is north-south, designed to avoid sun glare for goalkeepers. The stadium serves as the primary hub for the team, its youth academy, and additional training facilities.
In 2016, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers announced their departure from Lockhart Stadium, which subsequently fell into disrepair. In early 2019, Inter Miami revealed its intention to acquire the Lockhart Stadium site for its training facilities, including a 21,000-seat stadium. This stadium will act as the permanent home for Inter Miami CF II, the USL League One reserve team, and a temporary home for Inter Miami during the initial stages of construction for Miami Freedom Park. The Fort Lauderdale city council granted approval for Inter Miami’s plans, leading to the demolition process. The city and soccer club reached a 50-year lease agreement for the Lockhart Stadium site, outlining the club’s responsibility for construction, operation, and maintenance of the new facilities while the city retains ownership of the property.
The franchise’s ownership consortium, initially established in 2013 as Miami Beckham United, now operates under the name Miami Freedom Park LLC. The original group led by Bolivian businessman Marcelo Claure saw the addition of Masayoshi Son and Jorge and Jose Mas in 2017. The initiative stemmed from a contract David Beckham signed with MLS in 2007, granting him the option to own an expansion team at a reduced franchise fee. In September 2021, Beckham and the Mas brothers acquired Claure and Son’s stakes in the ownership, with Ares Management also becoming part of the ownership group.