All Eyes On Orlando

On the eve of Orlando City SC’s first MLS season, the club should have great expectations
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Major League Soccer (MLS) 2012 Season Preview

Orlando City SC player, that the Ballon d’Or winner would be playing in MLS with the likes of Brek Shea, first overall SuperDraft pick of 2015 Cyle Larin, or MLS veteran – formally of the Houston Dynamo – Tally Hall. And yet, here we are, on the brink of the 20th season of Major League Soccer, and a world-renowned footballer is playing for the top US league with some homegrown US players and US national team members.

So what, if anything, is so special about Orlando City? From many, Orlando City might look like it’s trying to take over as the go-to soccer city of the south and is just the Mickey Mouse team (pun possibly intended…) Not only is it the first year in MLS for the club, but from the first year of the team’s USL-Pro season in 2011, the Lions have been quietly – and confidently – raising the level of the maturity of lower level soccer in the US, and leave a legacy for other teams to strive toward.

Even with all that is going on in the offseason of MLS, including CBA negotiations, trades and acquisitions to MLS teams, as well as the addition of a handful of new lower league teams in the recently rebranded USL, which was most recently known as USL-Pro. On that path, Orlando City SC has a partnered team in a new USL team, that will have its inaugural season in 2015, in Louisville City FC.

Although it may be years in the future – or never at all – but the jump that Orlando City made from USL to MLS can be a shining example of how smaller soccer clubs can thrive with the big guns. Additionally, the partnership with Louisville City FC could pay huge dividends as Orlando City SC did when it was a USL club conjoined with Sporting Kansas City. Not only are there a couple of players from the USL Orlando City club on this MLS Orlando City club, but one player who had his breakout season – that Louisville City could have a player quite similar – for OCSC was Dom Dwyer.

A handful of other reasons why Orlando City is special, and could go on to impress many a skeptics this first season is that in addition to having its USL team in place, their USL Premier Development League team, Orlando City U-23, has strengthening roots. And with the burgeoning soccer culture that comes with having multiple professional teams, so does having an up-and-coming soccer supporters culture.

Orlando may not have the longest history with soccer but with the passionate fans that have grown from the club play in the past handful of years, the city is most certainly ready for another major league team – besides the Orlando Magic in the NBA – that the central Florida and wider population can get behind and support with a fervency that will grow for years to come.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.