[MLS SPOTLIGHT]MLS could welcome not just its 20th team but its 21st team in 2015. The Orange County board of commissioners followed the city of Orlando board of commissioners in approving the use of moneys generated by a local Tourist Development Tax (TDT) for various venue projects, including a new soccer stadium in downtown Orlando. USL PRO champion Orlando City SC is seeking an expansion and would like to begin play in MLS in 2015, the same year as New York City FC will begin operation.
“We are ecstatic about the positive vote,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins in a statement right after the vote. “Our fans have been the driving force behind the effort to bring MLS to Orlando. This one is for them.”
The vote by the Orange County board of commissioners was 5-2 in favor of the tax measure and followed a six-hour meeting at which local residents were given the opportunity to express their support or opposition to the tax and stadium project.
Those funds for the soccer stadium would amount to $20 million of the $94.5 million in tax revenues. Other moneys would be used for the construction of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, renovation of the Citrus Bowl and tourism marketing.
The cost for the first phase of the stadium (including land acquisition) is estimated at $85 million, of which Orlando City would contribute $30 million. The city of Orlando has been buying up lots for the stadium project.
There has always been more resistance to the project on the Orange County board than in the city of Orlando, where mayor Buddy Dyer has worked hard to push the project along.
Flavio Augusto da Silva, the Brazilian owner of Orlando City SC who resides in Orlando, set this fall as the target for the announcement of Orlando as MLS's 21st team to begin play in 2015. Orlando could be the first of several new MLS teams in the Southeast. Miami and Atlanta are also being tipped as possible new MLS markets as the league expands to 24 teams by 2020.
“We’d like Orlando to be the next expansion team,” MLS President Mark Abbottsaid in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel Monday. “We have in place a number of the factors that we think are needed to be successful, a strong leadership group and a strong fan base. Once we finalize [a stadium plan], we will have a Major League Soccer team here.”