Back in 1993, soccer fans packed the Cheyenne Saloon in Orlando to watch the announcement of host cities for the 1994 World Cup on a national television broadcast, hopeful of the celebration that would come when the city was indeed named as a site for soccer’s ultimate event.
However, the excitement that day paled in comparison with the exuberance of the crowd that spilled out onto Church Street in Orlando on Tuesday when the Cheyenne Saloon was again the host of a major announcement, as MLS Commissioner Don Garber welcomed Orlando City Soccer Club as the 21st team in MLS, announcing that the club would join the league along with New York City FC in 2015.
“We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer,” Garber said in a statement from the league. “From the success of the Orlando City Soccer Club, to the incredible fan support and passion in the community, this is a new market that really excites us. We have great confidence in Flávio Augusto da Silva, Phil Rawlins and the rest of the Orlando City ownership group. They love this sport, our League and this city. And thanks to the commitment of ownership, the City of Orlando and Orange County, Orlando City will soon have a spectacular new stadium that will provide fans and the entire community with a truly unique downtown sporting experience.”
Orlando City, who has enjoyed success in the USL level for the last three seasons, winning championships in 2011 and 2013, will play the first half of the 2015 season at the Florida Citrus Bowl before moving into a downtown stadium, which will begin construction in spring of 2014.
The ownership group includes several local partners, but is headed by the Brazilian da Silva and Englishman Rawlins, who was a club founder with the USL team.
Orlando City SC continues MLS on its goal of reaching 24 teams before 2020 – a far cry from the 10-team league in 2004. Since then, the league has expanded seven different times since then, reaching its current 19 teams in 2012 with the addition of the Montreal Impact.
Twice in that span the league added two teams in one year, with Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA starting in 2005 and the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC joining in 2011. The move also puts MLS back in the southeast corner of the country, which has been vacant since the retraction of the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny following the 2001 season.
“Orlando is a special city with amazing fans that have embraced the beautiful game and we have no doubt that Orlando City will become the next success story in MLS,” said Da Silva.
Added Rawlins, “It is a dream come true to bring Major League Soccer to Orlando. The fans in Orlando have clearly demonstrated that they are ready for MLS, and we look forward to celebrating with them and working together to set a new standard in this country.”
HERRICK LEADS GUAM
Seattle native and former Sounders U-23 player Doug Herrick has been training with Sounders FC all season and was part of the MLS pool of goalkeepers available for teams around the league to use. He appeared on the bench for Sounders FC on occasion in 2013, but never appeared in a match. Over the last few days, though, he played in two matches for the Guam National Team in friendlies against Laos and Cambodia – drawing 1-1 with Laos on Friday before shutting out Cambodia 2-0 on Tuesday.
Herrick, 24, now has 12 caps with Guam, who also features LA Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza and New England Revolution midfielder Ryan Guy.
WORLD CUP FIELD SET
Mexico trampled New Zealand on Tuesday night in a playoff match to seal its bid to the World Cup after sputtering in the Hexagonal Round and Uruguay qualified with a 5-0 series win over Jordan to complete the 2014 FIFA World Cup field.
After a 5-1 win in Mexico last week, El Tri posted a 4-2 win in the second leg of the playoff in New Zealand to win the playoff.
The 32 teams to have qualified are: From Africa – Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. From Europe – Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Germany Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Switzerland. From North America – Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the United States. From South America – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay. From Asia – Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea.
The World Cup draw is scheduled for December 6.