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Orlando City reveal MLS plans, hope for official word in November

Oct 14, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

Sellout crowds are the aim for Orlando City, as a new downtown stadium awaits. Sellout crowds are the aim for Orlando City, as a new downtown stadium awaits.

These days a Major League Soccer franchise heading to Orlando seems about as likely as Eli Manning throwing an interception…

So, with Orlando City closer than ever in their quest to move up to the big leagues, only one vote from the Orange County Commission on Oct. 22 separates them from entering MLS and bringing a franchise back to Florida.

With many expecting that to be a forgone conclusion, after Orlando City Council unanimously approved plans to hand $20 million worth of tourist tax to build the stadium, Lions president Phil Rawlins sat down with the Orlando Sun Sentinel to chat about which areas the club plan to strengthen on ahead of a possible MLS bow, with plenty of interesting tidbits popping up.

He gave some pretty intriguing answers, so here are a few snippets of what he had to say.

On a likely timeline for the franchise to reach MLS after the stadium deal is in place:

Once that’s done, a successful outcome would mean we believe within 30 days, certainly by the end of November, we’d hope to have an MLS announcement in Orlando that we’ll be joining Major League Soccer. Our plan is to play in 2015, so that gives about 16 months to get prepared. And first kick for MLS would be March of 2015.

On players making the jump from USL to MLS:

We would believe that a number of those players would make the transition with us. How many? That’s down to Adrian and the performance of those players over the next 12 months, but a number of those players that we’ve got on the books today we’d expect to make the jump to Major League Soccer. They are capable of doing that, they are capable of playing at the next level. That’s the core but you’ve got to supplement that because you’re looking at a roster of 28 to 30 players.

On the club changing it’s logo but keeping the color and the name:

The name will stay the same. The logo, however, would change. Not dramatically, we’re not going to go away from Lions and go to Giraffes or something, we’ll still be the Lions, but the logo itself will change because that becomes a trademark, copyright of Major League Soccer. They take responsibility for that and take ownership of it. We’ll take an opportunity to change it, but we’ll still very much be Orlando City, we’ll still very much be the Lions and purple, by the way, will very much be the color. We intend to own that certainly in the U.S. as well as around the world as a brand along with Fiorentina as a brand and color that stands out.

On MLS focusing expansion in the Southeast with Miami and Atlanta:

I think a regional rival always helps. We’ve seen that in the Pacific Northwest, the rivalry between the [Seattle] Sounders and [Portland] Timbers and [Vancouver] Whitecaps. It’s great for the sport, it’s great for the fans, it’s great for the economy. Traveling fans and everything else. So we’d love to see a regional rival. Whether that’s Miami or Atlanta, I’m completely open to. There is plenty of room in the Southeast for two teams, so we’d welcome that and I think the fans would welcome that, too, because it’d give them a regional rival to enjoy taking on and enjoy traveling to, as well.

On the all important vote from Orange County on Oct. 22:

I’m always optimistic. I think we’ve got a great case to make, and I think if you look at the economic impact, the benefits, the community benefits, it just makes all the sense in the world to me. So yes, I’m optimistic for that reason. … I don’t think it’ll be as easy as the city was and as much support as we had there, but I do think we can get it done and we can get a Major League [Soccer] team announced in November.

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