Yesterday was a big day for the city of Orlando and for it’s soccer team, Orlando City. Both were on center display to Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber as he spoke to a group of fans at an Orlando pub.
According to Garber, until now Orlando had never really been on the league radar. But after his first public visit to the city he clearly stated that it is now.
Orlando got creative with their pitch to MLS and Garber. Fans showed up with some cool signs and banners while the club pitched in for some clever billboards that welcomed MLS and Garber to the city. In all, not a bad way to try to convince the league that they are in this for real.
“This is a really great statement about what you have going down here in Orlando,” said Garber, who compared the gathering to the fan rally he held with the Sons of Ben in Philadelphia before their successful bid for expansion. “This is an amazing statement about what is happening with soccer in America.”
Garber stated that the league looks for three things in a potential MLS city: quality ownership, the right market and a solid stadium plan. The commissioner stated that currently Orlando is doing well at the first two things.
Garber laid down a pretty stiff challenge that I think Orlando can match. He wants them to get to 3,500 season tickets to an average attendance of more than 10,000. Basically he wants Orlando to have a strong enough base to enter the league with, a challenge that I totally think is fair.
If any group in the second or third division of soccer in American can do it, it is probably this group in Orlando.
One thing is clear, Garber laid out a pretty clear set of items that the league is looking for (though we’ve kind of already known most of them anyways thanks to the last five years of expansion) in an expansion city. With several second and third division cities expressing interest in moving up to MLS down the road, they should have a pretty clear understanding of what it will take. Throw in the season ticket numbers and average attendance and you have to think that any group that can match or break that number will get the league’s attention.
As for Orlando, I like their chances. Can they pass New York now is the key question. I have my reservation about saying that they will but you can’t deny their momentum at the moment.