MLS

Orlando City Officially Joins Major League Soccer as 21st Franchise

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 17: MLS commissioner Don Garber speaks prior to the 2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented by Adidas at the Indiana Convention Center on January 17, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

Major League Soccer and Orlando City officially announced the club will join the MLS in 2015 as the league's 21st franchise.

Major League Soccer announced the news:

PHOTO: The moment a dream became reality for @OrlandoCitySC. http://t.co/0h2lCvHJoM #MLS21 pic.twitter.com/7OedqE7VVA

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 20, 2013

Orlando City confirmed the news as well:

We are officially the 21st @MLS Club! #MLS21

— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) November 20, 2013

Orlando City has been a dominant force since joining USL Pro, which is the third level of soccer in the United States. The Lions have finished first or second in each of their three regular seasons in the league and won two championships, including the 2013 title.

The steady growth of the franchise paired with solid attendance numbers, including more than 20,000 fans for this year's championship match, was enough to convince the MLS that Orlando could handle a top-division franchise.

Adding Orlando to the mix is the latest expansion effort by the league, which is already set to add New York City FC and a club fronted by David Beckham, as pointed out by Kyle Bonn of Pro Soccer Talk.

The biggest concern for Orlando, and the other clubs joining the MLS as part of the expansion surge, is building a roster with enough talent to compete with the top teams. The amount of skilled players is limited, especially when you consider where the American league stands on an international level.

So finding that initial success like the Lions were able to do in a lower tier like USL Pro will likely prove very difficult. It's going to take some time for the club to attract outside talent and develop their own through the draft.

That said, Orlando's budding fanbase should be happy to get a franchise and the MLS is pushing forward with major expansion plans despite concerns about spreading the talent too thin.

Only time will tell how the plans work out, but giving teams to areas like Orlando that have shown interest in soccer and should provide a strong foundation certainly helps. It gives the league some extra leeway as it attempts to create a level playing field.

The announcement didn't come as a surprise after months of speculation, but now fans in Orlando can rejoice as the MLS move became official.

 

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