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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 02:08 GMT
Fusion and Mutiny fold
Diego Serna of the Miami Fusion
Miami failed to tackle its lack of local support
American Major League Soccer has closed down both its Florida franchises in a bid to cut its rising losses.

The closure of the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny leaves just 10 teams in the league.

MLS cited poor support for the Fusion and the lack of an owner for the Mutiny as reasons for dropping the clubs.

The Mutiny have been operated by the league since their inception in 1996.

I know many out there think this is the end of Major League Soccer, and that couldn't be further from the truth
MLS commissioner
Don Garber
A dispersal draft will be held this month to assign Tampa and Miami players to other teams.

"The decision to leave both cities for the 2002 MLS season was extremely difficult," said commissioner Don Garber.

"I can assure all of our fans that we worked tirelessly to find a plan that would have allowed us to remain in both markets.

"We simply could not find a solution that was economically feasible at this time, and we hope to return to the state of Florida when the league expands in future years."

Strategic decisions

The announcement, expected for several weeks, followed an unanimous vote Friday by the MLS board of governors.

The league has spent more than $250m and has yet to turn an annual profit.

"Our investors have made a number of strategic decisions that will better position MLS in the short and long term," Garber said.

South Florida is a very difficult sports market
Fusion owner Ken Horowitz
"I know many out there think this is the end of Major League Soccer, and that couldn't be further from the truth.

"It's something we feel is a new, strong beginning. We'll be a much stronger, more viable league in the future."

The Mutiny's fate apparently was sealed when the Glazer family, which owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, turned down a proposal to take over the team.

The Fusion joined the league as an expansion team in 1998.

Last year they had the league's best record, but they also had the lowest revenue, Garber said.

"South Florida is a very difficult sports market," Fusion owner Ken Horowitz said. "Even the established teams - the Marlins, the Heat, the Panthers - are suffering.

"The fan base is very diverse. Many people simply don't have local ties to the area and have trouble identifying with the local sports team."

Sean Wheelock reports for BBC Sport
"Both teams often drew fewer than 5,000 people"
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