MLS Expansion in the Near Future for Orlando

Club still eyeing to make jump to Major League Soccer by 2015
by Danny Morales   |   Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

When Major League Soccer (MLS) commissioner Don Garber announced at halftime of Wednesday’s MLS All-Star game that the league will be expanding to 24 teams by 2020, that only meant good things for Orlando City S.C.’s bid to join America’s top-tier of soccer.

The only question is when, not if.

“The whole goal here is to bring a franchise by the end of the calendar year 2013, to begin play in MLS by 2015,” said Orlando City spokesman Chris Jones about the club’s projected timeline.

With New York City FC already included into the 20 MLS teams, that leaves 4 spots open for expansion and all but guarantees that Orlando City will join the league sooner rather than later.

“We still strongly believe we can join the second New York franchise as another franchise for the 2015 season,” added Jones.

Orlando City President Phil Rawlins and owner/investor Flavio Augusto Da Silva were in attendance for Wednesday’s All-Star game, where they met with league officials to discuss expansion plans.

The club has already announced that they will be making “2 crucial presentations,” seeking collaborative funding from Orange County using Tourist Development Tax (TDT).

“It’s the last step the club has to bring MLS to town,” said Jones about next week’s presentations. “And that would essentially complete the deal of a stadium.”

The first of the 2 presentations will be given to the Orange County Board of Commissioners yesterday, with the 2nd presentation being delivered to Tourist Development Council (TDC) this Friday, Aug. 9, at 1:30 p.m. Both presentations will be held at the Orange County Administration building and are open to the public.

“We have always said that if we could agree to a private/public partnership to build the soccer stadium, then Major League Soccer (MLS) would be a reality for Orlando,” stated Rawlins in a press release issued Wednesday. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to present our plans to the County Commissioners and the TDC. We have a great story to tell for all of Central Florida and look forward to gaining this crucial support for this exciting project."

Orlando City recently re-worked its proposed stadium into a 2-phase plan. The first phase is estimated to cost $85 million, the club plans on using the requested $20 million from the TDT to contribute to a financing plan for phase one, which will consist of $30 million from the club’s ownership.

Remember the club already attempted to get state funding for their multi-purpose soccer stadium, but failed along with other Florida sports franchises.

The Lions launched their #PurplePride campaign on Friday, urging people to wear purple during next week’s county meetings to show support for the new stadium, which seems like the last piece of the club’s MLS expansion puzzle.

Once the presentations are done with, the final decision will come from a vote by the Orange County Commissioners at a later date.

“There is no actual scheduled date as of right now. It could be a couple weeks,” said Jones about when the club expects a vote. “We’re expecting a vote in late August, early September.”

Other MLS expansion possibilities

It’s worth noting that David Beckham still has a MLS franchise in his back pocket after it was included in his final contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham has recently been linked to wanting to bring MLS to Miami, having visited the city earlier in the year and checking out Florida International University’s newly renovated football stadium as a possible venue for Miami’s first MLS team since the Miami Fusion dissolved in 2001.

Keep in mind that the Fusion did not actually play their home games in Miami, but rather in nearby Ft. Lauderdale at Lockhart Stadium.

The state of Florida has not had an MLS franchise since the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion disbanded in 2001. The Fusion won the MLS Supporters Shield in 2001 and averaged over 11,000 fans during their final season of play.

Other cites mentioned in recent expansion rumors include Atlanta, Detroit, Minnesota, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio and even a third New York franchise.

Danny MORALES

Nationality:
USA
College:
Valencia College
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Real Madrid
Former athlete turned journalist who remembers the days of the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny, Danny now writes Orlando City news while chronicling the clubs move to become an MLS franchise.
DANNY'S SPONSORS