Orlando City is newest MLS expansion team

Orlando City is newest MLS expansion team

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Orlando City Soccer has become Major League Soccer's next expansion franchise.

MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed a franchise agreement with Orlando City on Tuesday at a community celebration near the site where a new downtown stadium will be constructed.

Once construction is completed the team will begin playing in MLS in the 2015 season.

Orlando City becomes MLS' 21st franchise. It is the latest of four new franchises that Garber said in August that the league planned to add by 2020. New York is also getting a team in 2015.

Both city and county officials previously approved the use of tourism taxes to help fund the construction costs for a new $84 million, 18,000-seat downtown soccer-specific stadium. That was the final hurdle the MLS said the city needed to clear to be awarded a team.

Fans celebrated on Church Street during the announcement and hours before hand.  Some wore team shirts; others wore the team's color, purple.

"We have sort of earned this with our support of the team over the last few years," said fan Charles Tolman.  "It feels better than if they just plopped a team down here."

Jennifer Pierce said her family follows professional soccer and will support Orlando's team. 

"It will make a great place to take the family, and it will bring a lot of money and business to the community as well," Pierce added.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says city leaders, the team and the fans worked hard over the last three years to make this happen.

"We are pretty persistent in Orlando.  I think we went through plans A to G to get this done, but tonight we are standing here with an MLS pro soccer team," said Dyer.  "We've got a Brazilian owner.  We've got a team leader from England.  I think Orlando is going to be the soccer capital of America."

Team President Phil Rawlins said he has believed for seven years that Orlando will support an MLS team here. 

"We have been working on this project for the last three years and it has gone by quickly," said Rawlins. "The community here has really embraced this project in the last few years to make it happen."

Tuesday's big announcement comes on the heels of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners vote on Monday night in support of $1 million in funding towards the proposed new Orlando City SC multi-purpose soccer stadium.

Osceola County's support follows money given for the project from Orange County, City of Orlando and Seminole County and further demonstrates the significant economic impact the stadium is expected to provide the entire Central Florida region.

The proposed new multi-purpose soccer stadium will represent a true public-private partnership with Orlando City SC ownership agreeing to commit over $110M in private funds for the new stadium and Major League Soccer expansion fees.

As part of the agreement reached with Osceola County, Orlando City SC plans to create youth soccer-related outreach programs located around Osceola County.  These programs will take place at County soccer facilities and will also include after-school activities and free soccer clinics.

The club announced earlier in the month the Lions will play the 2014 USL PRO season in Osceola County at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

"We are thrilled to be playing our 2014 regular season home games in Osceola County at ESPN Wide World of Sports," said Rawlins. "We look forward to participating in many more years of additional soccer-related community programs aimed at Osceola County youth."

Over the past three seasons, the club has called the Florida Citrus Bowl home, but that venue will be unavailable in 2014 due to construction.   Orlando's MLS team will return to the Citrus Bowl to start the 2015 season, while the team finishes building its soccer stadium in downtown Orlando.


FOX 35's Keith Landry contributed to this report.

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