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.
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.