Last weekend, Orlando City’s supporters made their first road trip to a match since the club made the jump from third division USL PRO to Major League Soccer, following the conclusion of the 2014 campaign. The preseason trip to Charleston for the Carolina Challenge Cup was actually the shortest road trip the Lions will make this season to face another MLS opponent.
Geographically isolated for the time being in the league since Atlanta will not enter until 2017, and Miami won’t start in 2016 (more realistically in 2017 or 2018), Orlando City fans may not have the opportunity to make as many reasonably distanced and priced road trips within MLS as other clubs do.
Approximately 800 Orlando fans made the six hour journey north to South Carolina to see the Lions face off against fellow MLS expansion side New York FC. Orlando City fans have enjoyed watching Kaka this preseason in direct contrast to New York City FC fans who haven’t had a “home” game of any sort to watch the team nor have seen Frank Lampard play except on television for Manchester City. The contrast between the clubs supporters was also evident as NYCFC had only a handful of fans attend the match, many of whom were simply sporting Manchester City kits. Albeit, Charleston is almost 11 hours away from New York City by car, while Charleston is 5.5 hours from Orlando.
In the past, we’ve seen Toronto FC, Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland and Vancouver send masses of fans on the road for big games. Orlando City SC, with its younger supporter base and a region that has been captivated over the past several seasons by the extensive and successful marketing effort of the team locally, has enough passionate fans that in the future road trips to Miami and Atlanta will likely be made in mass. In fact, when Orlando City competed in the lower divisions, they brought almost as many fans to St Petersburg to see the local I-4 derby with Tampa Bay Rowdies in both 2013 and 2014 as the Rowdies attracted themselves to home games.
With the threat of a MLS strike hanging over the league, soccer fans — particularly in Orlando — will be hoping to enjoy many away trips in the next several weeks and beyond.
The pictures below are by my friend Stephanie Porta who made the trip to Charleston along with the Ruckus, one of OCSC’s two major supporters groups.
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