One of the fastest-growing, top 20 metropolitan areas in the United States will soon be the home of Major League Soccer’s 21st club, as MLS Commissioner Don Garber and expansion team owners Flávio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins announced tonight that Orlando will join the league in 2015. Orlando's new MLS team, Orlando City Soccer Club, will join as an expansion team for the league’s 20th season.
With the addition of Orlando, MLS has added 11 clubs since the beginning of the 2005 season, leading to a remarkable and rapid transformation of professional soccer in North America. Three more expansion teams will be added by 2020.
“We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer,” Commissioner Garber said. “From the success of the Orlando City Soccer Club, to the incredible fan support and passion in the community, this is a new market that really excites us. We have great confidence in Flávio Augusto da Silva, Phil Rawlins and the rest of the Orlando City ownership group. They love this sport, our League and this city. And thanks to the commitment of ownership, the City of Orlando and Orange County, Orlando City will soon have a spectacular new stadium that will provide fans and the entire community with a truly unique downtown sporting experience.”
One of the world’s top tourism destinations with more than 57 million visitors annually, metropolitan Orlando is the 19th largest market in the United States and features a diverse, young and vibrant community. The Orlando area’s Hispanic population has more than doubled since 2000, making it the nation’s fourth fastest-growing Latino market.
Orlando City’s inaugural season will see the club open its own soccer stadium in downtown Orlando. The brand new stadium will be located on Church Street, in a vibrant section of Orlando's entertainment district. The new stadium will be accessible by both car and public transportation, with its construction scheduled to begin in spring of 2014. Prior to moving into the new stadium in the summer of 2015, Orlando City will play matches at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
During the past year, Orlando has hosted several major soccer events, including the USL PRO championship match in September, which drew a USL-record crowd of 20,886 fans to the Citrus Bowl. More recently, the U.S. and Brazil match on November 10 at the Citrus Bowl drew the largest home crowd in nearly 10 years for the U.S. women’s national team. In addition, Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, where Orlando City will play the 2014 USL PRO season, has served as host to MLS preseason training and many elite international clubs.
Da Silva, a native of Brazil, leads Orlando City's ownership group, which includes club Founder and President Phil Rawlins, Chairman John Bonner and 10 local partners. Da Silva previously owned Wise Up, a group of more than 400 language schools operating in five countries, and currently owns Geração de Valor (Valuable Generation), a company dedicated to developing young entrepreneurs. He is the former chairman of Ometz Group, an organization consisting of 16 holding companies, including Wise Up.
"Orlando is a special city with amazing fans that have embraced the beautiful game and we have no doubt that Orlando City will become the next success story in MLS,” said Da Silva. “We would like to thank MLS leadership for working with us and helping us bring Major League Soccer to Central Florida. Our goal is to continue the championship-winning ways this organization has established and to further the special relationship that this club has with its fans and the city of Orlando.”
Originally from the United Kingdom and a part-owner of English Premier League club Stoke City, Rawlins founded and developed a highly successful information technology sales and marketing consulting company. He founded the Austin Aztex, a USL PRO team, in 2007, before moving the team to Orlando in late 2010.
"It is a dream come true to bring Major League Soccer to Orlando," said Rawlins. “The fans in Orlando have clearly demonstrated that they are ready for MLS, and we look forward to celebrating with them and working together to set a new standard in this country. We have watched the evolution of Major League Soccer, and we are thrilled to join what has become one of the fastest growing and most exciting leagues in the world.”
Individuals who purchase 2014 Orlando City season tickets will have top priority for the club’s 2015 MLS season seat selection. Call (855) ORL-CITY or visit www.orlandocitysoccer.com for details.
Details regarding conference alignment and schedule format for future MLS seasons will be unveiled at a later date.