Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home to Major League Soccer expansion club Inter Miami CF, never got to officially say hello to fans, as Covid-19 put the league’s season on hold before the team’s home opener.
However, now that MLS revealed plans to resume play, the club’s “We Are the Sky” campaign will let the stadium share her (more on that below) thoughts and feelings through the words of goalkeeper Drake Callender, a 22-year-old native of Sacramento, Calif., who discovered his capacity for channeling his emotions and thoughts through poetry as a college student.
“In terms of why a female voice, it just felt right from the start, as our stadium is both powerful and beautiful, both intimidating and approachable, something to be admired and respected,” Inter Miami CF vice president, brand and marketing Michael Ridley said in an interview. “And when coupled with the tone of authority and comfort we wanted in the piece, there really wasn’t a choice to be made. Our stadium, like Mother Nature or a great ship, is female.”
He added, “While there are much larger issues in the world, there is no denying that people are missing the unity and collective experience that sports brings. People, fans, players, brands have all shared communications about this topic, but the team and I felt that there is one key component of sports the world has not heard from, the stadiums. And our stadium in particular has never had the opportunity to ‘speak’ to the world because the season was suspended 48 hours before our inaugural home opener.”
Ridley gave much of the credit to Callender, saying that the campaign wouldn’t have worked without his writing.
He also summed up the club’s brand and marketing approach as follows: “Our approach is the right amount of rogue. Be it ‘crashing the Super Bowl in Miami,’ being the first sports team to alter their club crest to reflect physical distancing, teaming up with David Guetta to pull of the first #UnitedAtHome concert in Miami or this effort, we want to capture people’s attention and emotions. And by being the right amount of rogue, it allows us to do exactly those two things.”
As for the league, play will resume with the MLS Is Back Tournament, which will kick off July 8 and be played, without fans in attendance, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
All 26 clubs will participate in the World Cup-style tournament, with each playing a minimum of three matches in the group stage and a maximum of seven should they advance to the final.
Group-stage matches will count in the MLS regular-season standings, and the winner of the tournament will clinch a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
Teams will begin arriving in Florida June 24, with group stage play kicking off July 8. The round of 16 is set to begin July 25, with the quarterfinals set for July 30 through Aug. 1, the semifinals Aug. 5 and 6 and the championship match Aug. 11.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement, “We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer. The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play. We also recognize that the deaths of George Floyd and others have focused our country on issues of racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women. Together with our owners, players and staff, the league and its clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long.”