MLS has returned to the state of Florida with last night’s announcement that Orlando City SC will move from USL PRO to MLS in 2015. While Orlando should be a top drawer market for the league, some question will persist.
1. What makes Orlando, with less professional soccer history, a safer bet than nearby Tampa Bay where the league contracted its team after six seasons in 2001?
2. Orlando’s Hispanic population is dominated by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. These aren’t your typical soccer lovers. How does OCSC plan to reach out to them?
3. Orlando City has NEVER faced adversity while competing in USL PRO. The team that relocated from Austin in October 2010 was a top team in USSF D2 and the drop to D3 made them even more dominant. MLS is set up to prevent the type of dominance Orlando City demonstrated the last three seasons in USL PRO. If the team isn’t constantly winning, will fans come?
4. Will Orlando City be able to attract soccer fans from nearby markets such as Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, the Space Coast and Daytona Beach? These areas all have a rich history of supporting the sport, and Tampa Bay in particular has a longer standing history of supporting the game at the American professional level than any market in the southeast USA.
5. Youth Soccer. Florida’s youth soccer community is fragmented like so many across the country. Perhaps this isn’t an OCSC priority, but maybe it should be?
With these questions aside, I believe Orlando City will be incredibly successful. But I am curious to hear some feedback from the Lions supporters as to how these questions will be handled.
Editor’s note: For more news, opinion and analysis about the Lions, check out our Orlando City team page.