Major League Soccer Expands to Orlando. LeBron To Miami? Houston NWSL Franchise?
Major League Soccer announced at a press conference in downtown Orlando on Tuesday that the Orlando City Soccer Club of the third division USL Professional Division would become the league’s twenty-first team in 2015, joining New York City FC as expansion teams due to debut that season.
Orlando City has seen great success at the minor league level since relocating from Austin, Texas and has produced the best attendance figures of any minor league soccer organization in the United States or Canada. Orlando won the regular season championship in the league’s inaugural 2011 season, and again in 2012. The club took home the top honors as playoff champions in 2011 and more recently in 2013, when they drew a crowd of over twenty thousand to the Citrus Bowl.
Orlando, currently the minor league affiliate of Sporting Kansas City will play one more season in the minor leagues, moving to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida while the Citrus Bowl undergoes renovations that were approved alongside the club’s new stadium set to open in 2015. Upon entry to Major League Soccer, Orlando, nicknamed the “Lions,” will resume play at the Citrus Bowl until the scheduled completion of the new stadium during the summer.
MLS commissioner Don Garber had previously announced during the MLS All-Star Game that the league would add an additional four teams by 2020 in addition to New York City FC, owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, which had been previously announced in May of this year. With Orlando set to join New York in 2015, three spots remain available. David Beckham and Marcelo Claure are all but guaranteed ownership of a potential Miami franchise to begin play in 2016, and LeBron James of the NBA’s Miami HEAT and minority owner of Liverpool has recently expressed interest in joining them. An Atlanta franchise seems destined for 2017, set to begin play at the new Falcons stadium set to open the same season, and would be under Falcons ownership.
Expansion rumors are also circulating for the new women’s National Women’s Soccer League, as the Houston Dynamo of MLS have begun negotiations for an expansion franchise to call a fellow tenant at BBVA Compass Stadium. The team would most likely begin play in 2015.
Elsewhere in Texas, FC Dallas will reportedly start up its own USL Pro minor league affiliated franchise, and the LA Galaxy will reportedly do the same.