Inter Miami CF don’t enter Week 34 mathematically eliminated from the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, but head coach Phil Neville already has one eye on the 2022 campaign.
Speaking ahead of their Saturday afternoon home match against New York City FC (1:30 pm ET | Univision, TUDN, Twitter), Neville assured that “next year’s roster will be younger, will be fresher.” And he views this game, as well as their Decision Day one against the Supporters’ Shield-winning New England Revolution, as a chance for players to prove they belong.
“The building’s started for next year, but these next two games are a great showpiece to say how badly do these players want it,” Neville said. “They are suffering, they’re hurting, they are disappointed, they’re frustrated, they’re angry, they’re sad. Tomorrow’s another occasion to go out there and to prove that they deserve to be at Inter Miami come January 17th when we’re back in preseason training.”
Inter Miami enter at 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings and can be bounced from postseason contention with a loss or tie against NYCFC. Other results could settle the same fate, reflecting the slim odds that await Neville’s group.
When building for 2022, there’s another reality that Neville and chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson must confront. For the next two seasons, Miami’s facing sanctions after violating MLS’ salary budget and roster guidelines during the 2020 season, including a reduction of $2,271,250 in allocation dollars for the 2022 and 2023 campaigns.
Those violations occurred before Neville and Henderson were in leadership positions, though the challenges remain.
“It’s about building a roster, building an attitude, building a momentum to win next season,” Neville said. “This club has to win games of football, has to win things and we shouldn’t hide away from that. And it’s going to be tough, we’ve got sanctions that are playing against us. But for me, tomorrow’s the start of the rebuild.”
With an offseason of change looming, Miami’s still chasing lofty ambitions that co-owner David Beckham and others have vocalized since their expansion launch in 2020. And Neville feels that with “bricks in at the bottom in terms of the foundation,” brighter days lie ahead.
“This offseason will be massive for us and we’ve got a real big job to do this [winter] to get a roster next year that will mean that we can compete,” Neville said. “I had really good conversations with the ownership this week in terms of their expectations, their ambitions and it hasn’t changed from day one. They want to win, they want us to be successful and they want to compete.
“That’s where we are really aligned and this offseason, there’s not going to be much time to rest. There’s going to be a lot of work done in terms of getting the right people into this football club to help us compete and help us be successful.”