Orlando City will open their MLS era in the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, before moving into a new 18,000-seat soccer stadium in downtown Orlando later that summer. Construction for the new stadium, which was approved last month by the Orange County Board of Commissioners, is scheduled to begin next spring.
Orlando City will join the league at the same time as the league’s 20th franchise, New York City FC, marking the fourth time the league has added two clubs in one year. With two teams from the east joining the league at the same time, there will have to be some sort of realignment of the two conferences and schedules which MLS said they will announce at a future date.
Learning from their successful expansions in Portland and Seattle, Orlando has already shown a passion for supporting soccer. Playing as the Orlando City Lions, the club has won the USL Pro Championship two of the three seasons they have played in Orlando. The team led the league in attendance in 2013 and set a record for announced attendance, with 20,886 for the championship at the Florida Citrus Bowl in September.
“Orlando was ready, and they were aggressive on how quickly they wanted to come into the league, and we wanted to ride that wave,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “This is a big-time soccer town. This town is painted purple. You’d have to be in a hole somewhere not to see it.”
Unlike the uncertainly that surrounds a Miami franchise, Orlando City SC should develop into one of the premier MLS franchises. It is the biggest TV market in the country that possesses only one major-league sports team. It’s a fast growing metropolitan area with more than 2 million people and attracts tourists from all over the world, many of whom probably would to take in a soccer game while on vacation in Central Florida.
The added bonus for eastern conference fans is that flying to Orlando is relatively inexpensive and who wouldn’t want a trip down their to watch an MLS game, especially in March or April?