“We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer,” MLS Commissioner Don 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.”
The last time MLS had a presence in Florida, both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion represented the league. With Orlando City, MLS takes on one of the most stable and embedded franchises in the lower tier of the American soccer pyramid, buoyed by a strong ownership group and a fervent fanbase.
“We have great confidence in Flávio Augusto da Silva, Phil Rawlins and the rest of the Orlando City ownership group,” Garber said. “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.”
The Lions will play out their final USL Pro season in the confines of Disney’s Wide World of Sports center in 2014 while the expected construction of their soccer-specific stadium in downtown Orlando commences. To this point, they have called the Florida Citrus Bowl home.
A project some seven years in the making (dating back to their days as the Austin Aztecs), club owner Phil Rawlins is optimistic of what’s to come.
“It is a dream come true to bring Major League Soccer to Orlando,” Rawlins said in a statement. “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.”
Source: Empire of Soccer