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Orlando City move one step closer to MLS dream

Apr 30, 2013, 8:10 AM EDT

Orlando City SC

A potential MLS franchise in Orlando moved one step closer on Monday evening, as bill SB-306 was passed after voting in the Florida senate. 

That might not mean much to you and I, but basically it now allows the bill to be voted on in the House of Representatives today or tomorrow.

The crucial bill is one that Orlando City Soccer Club, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and locals have petitioned for in recent months and weeks. It is significant for the future, as the bill hopes to add Major League Soccer sides to the list of professional sports teams that receive funding from the state of Florida for stadium development, upgrades and infrastructure.

So if the bill is voted in, Orlando City can press ahead with their plans for a new $105 million soccer stadium in downtown Orlando, after the city already purchased a sizable chunk of land for the project.

More: City of Orlando buys land for proposed site of soccer-specific stadium

Is this just a flash in the pan that will fail if bill SB-306 isn’t passed in the next 48 hours?

Not at all, the clubs resolve will remain strong and they’ve been steadfastly aiming for Major League Soccer since the club was relocated to Orlando from Austin in 2010. I remember meeting Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath at the USL Pro combine in Charleston, S.C. back in early 2011. Then he discussed how the ultimate goal was MLS, and that stance hasn’t wavered.

It has grown stronger year after year, month by month and week by week. Club president Phil Rawlins has worked tirelessly to get locals, supporters, politicians and influential business leaders in the Orlando area to get on board with the project to get Orlando City into MLS.

He deserves huge credit. But this next step is massive.

The $100 million fee for MLS expansion, stadium costs and a huge roster upgrade will take considerable funds, but Orlando is on the right track.

Their fan base is growing — with an average of 8, 360 to see their four home games in USL Pro so far — and the potential for growth is vast with the huge tourist influx during the summer months and a metro population of around 2.1 million.

Recent support from MLS has further helped their cause and despite Commissioner Don Garber set to announce an expected 20th league franchise based in New York City in the next month or so, he has spurred Orlando on in their efforts for a new stadium.

More: Man City owner set to fund new MLS franchise in NYC? 

Where does NYC 2 leave Orlando? Still in a very healthy position.

Recently Garber responded to questions about Orlando. “Love what’s happening in Orlando. Hoping to see support in Florida House for stadium support Bill.”

MLS will be happy with the step forward by the state of Florida, but the next 48 hours and a vote in the House of Representatives is set to be the biggest hurdle Orlando City Soccer Club has ever faced.

  1. Dan - Apr 30, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    As I read this, I am less than excited about it. It would be helpful if Don Garber would really be able to articulate a legitimate plan for moving the MLS forward while still improving the quality of the product. That, to me, is the biggest glaring need. Increased quality. Not increased quantity.

    • talgrath - Apr 30, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      For quality you need money. To get money, you need more fans nationwide. For more fans nationwide you need more teams in more places. I personally think NY2 is a bad choice, but Orlando could be an excellent one. Atlanta seems an obvious next choice to me, as that gives you a good chunk of coverage across the south. Perhaps eventually MLS might add one team to the north central US.

  2. jdvalk - Apr 30, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Thank you; anyone remember how the old NASL expanded and expanded and then folded?

    • charliej11 - Apr 30, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      Yes, went to a LOT of games. Apples and Oranges.
      NASL had no national TV contract and spent way more than they made.
      MLS has a handful of TV contracts and spends way less then they make.

      If MLS is profitable in the cities they expand to and they have a pretty good track record. Then 40 is better than 20. NASL lost in every city ( outside of Seattle, NY, etc ) and therefore expansion is bad.

  3. valiantdraws - Apr 30, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Something tells me a team is either going to move or be contracted. Chivas seems an obvious choice, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it was Colorado or Dallas.

    • chadmoon1 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      Won’t be Dallas with the Hunt Sports Group behind it. Doubt Colorado either, as it is owned by the Arsenal owners. Problems there are that Garber allowed those owners to build in the burbs rather than close to downtown. Look around the league, all the successes are downtown (Real Salt Lake exception) and all the strugglers attendence wise are in the burbs.

      • arbeck - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        You can build in the burbs if you have good transportation to your stadium. Rio Tinto is right near multiple stations for light rail and near the interstate.

        Toyota Park, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and FC Dallas Stadium aren’t served as well by major interstates and have zero good public transit to them. That’s especially bad for Toyota Park because you can live just fine in Chicago without owning a car.

  4. scoocha - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    What’s the ultimate goal? Two tier system with relegation and promotion? Or is this just following the Big 4 sports in an effort to dilute the product?

    • arbeck - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      It’s an effort to get an MLS team near enough of the population to make it a true national league. I don’t think you are diluting the product until you are over 24 teams.

    • charliej11 - Apr 30, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      One thing if for certain pro/rel is not a goal. They will never artificially demote teams. Ever.

      How is the NBA diluting the product ? Seattle has 44,000 people signed up for season tickets and they will not expand there.

      Your comment seems to have some ignorant bias to it.

      • arbeck - Apr 30, 2013 at 6:03 PM

        There’s a reason the NBA isn’t expanding to Seattle and it’s only about moving a current team to Seattle. The owners don’t want to cut the revenue they get into any more pieces by creating a new team. Once you get into all the major media markets, it’s not worth the extra revenue to expand.

      • charliej11 - Apr 30, 2013 at 9:56 PM

        He is stating the Big 4 leagues are diluting the talent…I am saying the NBA absolutely is not. I gave a perfect example. I will now state the NFL is not either..nor is MLB.

  5. danielofthedale - Apr 30, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    If I had to guess I think that 26 or 28 is the long term plan. That would be another three rounds of expansion roll outs. The first will the NYC2, Orlando, Second Southeast Team (Either Atl or Miami) in the years of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Then after three years or so they would do another three team round with one each season I would think those cities could be either Atl. or Miami, whichever one did not get in the last round, St. Louis, and then a Western city like Phoenix or San Diego. Then once again after another three year layoff the next three times come over a three year period. Places like San Antonio, Minneapolis, Tampa, another city out West. So by around 2030 there would 28 teams, two 14 team conferences playing each conference team home and way and playing each team from the other conference once for a 40 game season. Which is a little longer than most leagues seasons, but MLS teams by and large have much fewer non-league games so its not to outlandish.

    Like I said just my idea of what I think the long term plan would be.

  6. dfstell - Apr 30, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    This is great. I’m so tickled by all the positive steps that NASL clubs (and a few USL clubs) are taking. Who knows what the ultimate end product will be, but it can’t be bad to have lower level clubs doing good things in soccer specific stadia.

    I’d love to see pro/rel, but I can’t imagine it’ll happen. MLS makes about $10MM/year from NBC for television rights. They want to charge expansion clubs $100MM to join MLS. Why would MLS EVER adopt a model where clubs could join for free based on play on the field over a model where they have to pay 10X what they make from TV in a season?

    Professional soccer is so young in this country. I think there’s a reasonable chance that in 20-30 years soccer is booming and we have clubs that rival the best in the world, but that MLS is a historical footnote. Soccer excellence doesn’t have to come via MLS. The biggest threat to MLS is that these lower level leagues are developing nice stadia and they operate without the constraints of salary caps and DP rules. A well-financed owner could field a club better than most MLS clubs for chump change ($10-15MM/year or less salary than Wayne Rooney makes in a year).

  7. cranespy - Apr 30, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    Shouldn’t MLS be looking at Miami instead of Orlando? Miami has two things going for it…..a huge soccer fan base of citizenry with roots in South and Central America.. plus there is already a brand new state of the art stadium that is scarcely used by the Marlins!

  8. magicbucs - May 1, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    @ cranes
    Miami already had an mls franchise and it was a bust. They can’t fill the dolphins or marlins games either.

    Orlando city already has avg of 8000 fans in the seats in a 3rd tier league. There is also a large central and South American influence in Orlando.
    Miami has a lot more Cubans which love baseball not soccer.
    Tourists from all over the world come to Orlando as well. You see the brazilians tourist groups full an entire section at magic games even when Dwight Howard was here. So you know they will get a section or 2 just for them at mls soccer games.
    Orlando is full of Europeans as well that will fill that new stadium or the citrus bowl until the new stadium is complete.

  9. cranespy - May 1, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    @magicbucs. Thanks for the info….any ideas on what could be done with that new baseball stadium? Shame to see a new park suffer from malaise.

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