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Orlando City SC Games
Orlando City Soccer Club is a relatively new team to Major League Soccer (MLS). Years ago, there was a United Soccer League (USL) team that went by the same name, but it dissolved in 2014 after four years of competing in USL Pro. Other Florida-based teams have been added to the MLS ring in the past including Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny, but they have folded. The present-day Orlando City SC is a follow-up team to these past iterations of professional soccer in the Sunshine State, but are they successful enough to keep going?
Orlando City SC was founded in 2013, and the team started officially playing the field in 2015. Their nickname is the Lions. Interestingly, Orlando City SC is the southern-most team in MLS’s Eastern Conference, since most of the teams are in New England and up into Canada. In 2010, investors of Orlando City SC, including Phil Rawlins, stated that they intended to join MLS. The city of Orlando met with commissioner Don Garber to discuss the possibilities. With Florida’s record with soccer, there were concerns about the markets, corporate backing, fan support, and franchising opportunities. At the time, the next MLS club did not go to Orlando; it went to New York City. However, Orlando City SC ended up being a long-term project in MLS. Once a plan for a soccer-specific stadium was created, promising over 20,000 seats, momentum gathered.
With a combination of state funds and local investors, Exploria Stadium was created. It opened in 2017. In addition to hosting the men’s MLS team, Orlando City SC, it hosts the National Women’s Soccer League Team from Orlando, Orlando Pride. Before it was completed, Orlando City FC played home games out of Camping World Stadium, prior known as the Citrus Bowl, which regularly filled up to massive crowds exceeding 60,000 fans. Although the new Exploria Stadium has a smaller capacity compared to the shared stadium, it still holds a huge crowd of 25,500.
When it comes to rivals, Orlando City SC has no clear-cut nemesis. It is one of the lower-performing teams; last year, they ranked 11th in their conference and 22nd overall. Since the team is still in its early years and the history of soccer in the city has been rocky, they may be able to make a turn around with sharp leadership and talented drafts. With no nearby teams in the conference, there are no natural geographic rivals inhereted by Orlando City SC, but maybe that will change as MLS continues to expand its reach to new cities. Keep following Orlando City SC to see what moves they make next. Like any new team, they have a lot to prove, and spectators are along for the ride.