“It is my pleasure to welcome Orlando City SC as Major League Soccer’s 21st expansion team.”
– MLS Commissioner Don Garber
With that statement, in what was perhaps the worst kept secret in all of sports, Orlando City Soccer Club was announced as the 21st Major League Soccer franchise Tuesday night and will begin play in 2015. Capping a meteoric rise from expansion USL Pro team in 2010 to a 2013 USL Championship played before 20,886 delirious fans, the Lions celebrated promotion to the United States’ top flight league with a jubilant purple crowd at the Cheyenne Saloon in downtown Orlando.
Celebrating the moment with the club were a Who’s Who of Florida politics. Florida governor Rick Scott, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (in purple shoes no less) and various city and county council members set the stage for MLS Commissioner Don Garber to make the announcement. Leading off his comments, Garber remarked, “We said in March, about a year ago, that it wouldn’t be ‘if,’ it would be ‘when,’ well that ‘when’ has come, that ‘when’ is tonight.”
Prior to Garber, Head Coach Adrian Heath, President Phil Rawlins and Majority Owner Flávio Augusto da Silva addressed the crowd that wore more purple than a Violete Beauregard and Grimace fan convention. Heath saluted all the players that had ever played for the team and made a promise about the sort of side that OCSC expects to field in 2015, “We are not going to make the numbers up in MLS. We are going to be there to be the best team possible.”
Rawlins thanked everyone involved with the team in Orlando, particularly sponsors Orlando Health who he stated were “the first to reach out to us when we started” as well as the Osceola and Seminole Counties who both contributed money toward the upcoming soccer specific stadium. On a personal note, he thanked his wife, Kay and recognized her as the “heart of the club and the community of the club.”
Majority Owner Flávio Augusto da Silva spoke about the fantastic team that drew him to the MLS effort and how important the event was. “You are seeing history happen right here and you are part of that.” Not content to bask in exultant cheers, he also talked about making a trip to try to land the club’s first designated player. “I’m going to leave this city on Thursday. I will take a flight for a country in Europe and we’re going to talk with a very special guy, a soccer star. We’re going to watch his game this weekend. I will tell you one thing, I will talk to his guy and our goal is to bring him to this team.” Before he could finish his sentence, the crowd burst into chants of, “WE WANT KAKÁ!”
2007 FIFA World Player of the Year, Kaká has been linked to Orlando City ever since he visited the team’s training facilities earlier this year. He also just happens to be good friends with Augusto da Silva.
“I didn’t come to this project with this amazing team to participate, we came to win.”
– OCSC Owner Flávio Augusto da Silva
The night started off with Iron Lion Firm and The Ruckus supporters groups marching into the main dance area in front of the stage and proceeding to put on nothing short of an epic concert of game chants, taunting everyone from longtime Orlando rival Tampa Bay to fellow MLS expansion team NYCFC. Emceeing the event were Tom Vann and Daniel Dennis of the A Mediocre Time with Tom and Dan podcast.
The arrival of Orlando City in MLS marks the end of a 25 year drought since the last professional sports franchise, the NBA’s Orlando Magic, was awarded for Orlando.
For photos of the event, click here.