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Orlando takes the fast track
by Paul Kennedy, November 20th, 2013 1:25AM

TAGS:  mls, orlando city


[MLS SPOTLIGHT] Three years ago, you'd never have mentioned Orlando as a credible MLS expansion target, but it was confirmed Tuesday as MLS's 21st team. While the announcement of New York City FC as MLS's 20th team in May was a low-key affair, Tuesday's unveiling of Orlando City SC at the Cheyenne Saloon on Church Street was a wild one as hundreds of fans dressed in purple -- the club's colors -- packed the bar.

The Cheyenne Saloon was used for the unveiling of Orlando's other major sports team, the NBA Heat, in 1987. Orlando has grown a lot since then and continues to grow -- it is projected to be the fifth fastest growing metropolitan area over the next five years -- which makes it a prime market for MLS.

Brazilian Flavio Augusto da Silva, who heads the Orlando ownership group, surveyed several cities for a possible MLS expansion team and chose Orlando, where he resides with his family.

The ownership group also includes club founder and president Phil Rawlins, who moved the Orlando City's USL team from Austin in 2011, chairman John Bonner and 10 local partners.

Orlando City will be MLS's first team in Florida since it pulled out in 2001 after folding the Tampa Bay Mutiny after six seasons and Miami Fusion after four.

Despite MLS's previous experience in Florida, Orlando pushed aggressively for an MLS team and supported plans for a $84 million downtown soccer-specific stadium that should open some time during the 2015 season.

Orlando City is expected to begin MLS play in the Florida Citrus Bowl in 2015 after completing its fourth season in USL PRO, where it will be the defending champion in 2014.

Rawlins confirmed that Orlando City coach Adrian Heath will coach the MLS team.

  1. Kelly Gorman
    commented on: November 20, 2013 at 7:16 a.m.
    In 1987, orlando joined the NBA with the Magic, not the Heat... Orlando Magic, Miami Heat.
  1. Dave Kantor
    commented on: November 20, 2013 at 8:41 a.m.
    Not sure what makes them think a Florida team will succeed after two of them failed, but wish them all success. Hopefully they won't schedule any day games, as summer heat/humidity in FL is intolerable for fans and players.
  1. Andrea Hana
    commented on: November 20, 2013 at 10:34 a.m.
    Dave, Having had the 2nd largest crowd in the US for 2013 with an attendance of 71,124 when Brazil and Honduras played a friendly. With David Beckham and LaBron James into it and this kind of general interest, the more recent national promotion of MLS, I don't think that they'll have a problem. Usually games are played in the evening (even here in the NW, where I live). Enjoy!
  1. Millwall America
    commented on: November 20, 2013 at 12:53 p.m.
    Orlando City Lions averaged 8,100 attendance last season in the lowly USL (roughly Chivas USA numbers). They did about 12,000 per game during the playoffs and 21,000 during the final (which is Portland Timbers type numbers). Once they're in MLS playing against the likes of Galaxy, Red Bulls, etc. in a soccer-specific stadium I suspect they'll do very well.
  1. Nate Nelson
    commented on: November 20, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.
    Best to Orlando..they have been looking for this since the move from Austin. They also know the USL is a toilet bowl operation leaving MLS as the only option.
  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: November 20, 2013 at 10:20 p.m.
    Firstly, congratulations to Orlando for "buying" its way into the with the entire league!!! How do you "make it" into the so called US 1st Division? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$! Not "playing your way" up and in from the lower ranks but "buying" your way in! It's "daft and diabolical!" Makes no economic sense or does it? Maybe there's something I don't know about other than MLS ownerships having buckets of cash! As far as the "standard" of play goes, has anyone watched the FA Cup with lower and non-league clubs "going at it?" That's the level here "soccer people!" Personally, I'm off to a country in Europe to become a managing partner of a 4th division side that's been in the same league for over 30 years!!! Maybe, just maybe, we will gain promotion to the 3rd and upward...we shall see...and for a fraction of the cost! And the level of play??? Blood and Guts! Good Luck MLS!

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