The quest to bring top division soccer to Orlando took another enormous step forward on Monday. Per the league’s official website, “The City of Orlando Board of Commissioners voted through the approval of funds for a new downtown, multi-purpose soccer stadium on Monday, the next-to-last piece of legislation needed to secure a new home for the USL PRO club. The vote was unanimous among the six commissioners as well as Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer.”
Orlando has been moving aggressively towards an MLS franchise for quite some time. The City (through Disney) has been successfully hosting the Pro Soccer Challenge for a number of years. Per the Orlando Sentinel, The $94.5 million agreement approved by a 7-0 vote of the Orlando City Council also includes another $25 million in tourist tax funding for the Dr. Phllips Performing Arts Center, $12 million for the Citrus Bowl; $27.5 million for tourism ads; and $10 million for improvements to the Orange County Convention Center.
The next level of approval comes at the County level, with a vote scheduled for October 22. If that vote is successful, Orlando will be on the doorstep of announcing an expansion deal with MLS. With more than 2 million people, the Greater Orlando Metropolitan Area is the 26th largest Metro area in the country, and seemingly a ripe market for soccer. The area is growing fast and is a major tourist area and a popular convention city. For professional sports, Orlando is home to the Magic of the NBA, but no other professional sports franchise.
This seems like a perfect market for MLS. Big population underserved by the sports world, with a young population. One possible sticking point is the proximity to Miami. With an expansion team possible destined for Southbeach, there could be 2 MLS sides within 3 hours of each other.