Small-Sided Soccer — A Leap of Faith

November 1, 2015, Department, by Jack Kardys

Small-sided soccer, a fast growing sport in the United Kingdom, offers an ideal setting in which to teach children the basic skills of the sport.Long before David Beckham showed interest in building a soccer stadium in Florida’s sunny Miami-Dade County, another United Kingdom import, Scottish-born Alan Georgeson and his son Scott Georgeson, owners of Soccer 5 USA, were already investing in small-sided soccer fields in Miami-Dade County-owned parks.

Miami-Dade County and Small-Sided Soccer 

Miami-Dade County has 1.6 million residents of Hispanic origin — more than half the county’s population. Traditionally, Hispanic people love to play and watch soccer. Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (PROS) recognized the need to build more soccer fields at regional and community parks to keep up with demand. However, PROS was planning and building regulation-sized soccer fields, and running out of land quickly. So, why invest in small-sided soccer versus traditional soccer fields?

Small-sided soccer is played with fewer players than traditional soccer. Small teams can play a game with just a few friends on smaller playing fields. Small-sided soccer is ranked the fastest growing sport in the United Kingdom and is preferred for teaching children the basics of soccer. With small-sided soccer, players have more contact with the ball and develop skills faster. Smaller fields are also easier for children to manage.

PROS found a partner in the Georgesons, who are both familiar with how to manage smaller fields and teach the game.

In 2010, Soccer 5 USA approached PROS about building small-sided soccer fields at Kendall Soccer Park, a popular regional park in Miami-Dade. At the time, there were no small-sided soccer facilities anywhere in 

Miami-Dade. Soccer 5 proposed to build four state-of-the-art facilities in an undeveloped section of the popular park. Soccer 5 came equipped with the design and the capital to construct the facilities in record time, but first they had to navigate their way through the complex public procurement system with Miami-Dade County.

Soccer 5 applied for a permit to conduct business with Miami-Dade County, which is a one-year contract with a one-year optional extension. Taking this risk was a great leap of faith for a company interested in investing capital to build on land with a short contract life. Miami-Dade Parks also assumed risks, including what to do with the development once it was built and no guarantee of the game gaining a following the way it has overseas. 

During this time, while Soccer 5 was operating under its permit and growing in popularity, PROS put out a recreational program contract to provide soccer programs and facilities in its parks. Through this contract, the vendor pays a minimum guaranteed payment and a percentage of its gross revenues each month. Soccer 5 USA bid and was awarded the contract for the Kendall Soccer Park, adding additional years, opportunity and risk to its investment. 

Private-Public Partnership — Mutually Beneficial 

After only two years, Soccer 5 USA’s investment was clearly a success. The fields were well-designed and residents and soccer fans immediately took interest. From the success of its partnership, PROS once again put out a request for proposal to create similar venues at two other regional county parks — Tropical Park and Amelia Earhart Park — and Soccer 5 again won the bid. Soccer 5 USA invested in more fields at the two additional parks, expanding its business into the north and south end of Miami-Dade to complement its central location in Kendall. 

Since its venture into partnership with PROS, Soccer 5 USA’s business model includes soccer facilities with state-of-the-art fields and technology, afterschool and summer camp programs, and youth and adult soccer. The company manages the annual Miami Soccer Festival, which includes youth and adult tournaments. The company has proposed plans to construct additional fields in existing parks. Once construction is completed, Soccer 5 USA’s total investment in small-sided soccer facilities in Miami-Dade County will exceed $3 million. Recently Soccer 5 launched franchise opportunities and continues to lead the development of small-sided soccer in south Florida. 

“Small-sided soccer is exploding across the nation, and we are excited to be at the cutting edge of developing quality facilities in Miami-Dade County Parks, offering spaces to play and building revenue streams for all stakeholders,” says Alan Georgeson, chairman of Soccer 5 USA. “We also are adding increased value to our development and investment by working with national companies, including Cushman and Wakefield, Fieldturf and Soccer.com.”

Soccer 5’s success is shared by PROS and its patrons. Organized teams bring families and soccer enthusiasts to parks on a regular basis. Soccer 5 has seen its business grow and its investment in county-owned land provides needed recreational opportunities and facilities to our community. Sports and parks enhance community health and well-being. This type of successful public-private partnerships should be “business as usual” for parks across the country. 

 

Jack Kardys is the Director of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces.