Major League Soccer (MLS) may be ready for opening day, but for fans in New York and Orlando that excitement is being reserved for one more year. New York City FC and Orlando City SC will take the field in 2015 with their traditionally named squads. The two cities are slated to be the homes of the 20th and 21st MLS franchises, and although neither team will be taking part in the 2014 season they are both drawing a lot of attention to the league.
New York City FC was announced in 2013 as an interesting partnership between English Premier League club Manchester City and the New York Yankees. The team has already made several key decisions, including recently hired head coach Jason Kreis, assistant coach Miles Joseph, and the official colors of the club, light and navy blue with white–a combination of the colors of its two parent teams. One thing that still has not been resolved, however, is where within New York the team will play.
Originally hoping to build a stadium in Queens, the club was rejected by locals and community board leaders because the proposal sought to convert public park space into a private site. Recently, a just as hotly debated but much more supported idea has cropped up which could potentially land the team as neighbors to the Yankees in the Bronx. The current proposal, which was backed by former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, as well as a recent straw poll showing support from a majority of residents, would place the new arena adjacent to Yankee Stadium, allowing for multi-sport use of the already existing parking and public transportation options. The plan, which is opposed by current mayor Bill DeBlasio, is far from complete, even with only a year left before opening day. In the meantime, the New York City FC will play their home games in Yankee Stadium.
Orlando is also ready to grow a new Major League Soccer fan base. Announced in 2013, Orlando City SC is a private venture of international businessmen Flavio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins. The team is evolving in a very different way from its expansion counterpart in New York. Orlando City SC is currently a professional team playing in the USL Pro league. The team owners purchased the rights for the latest MLS expansion, and the team, which has been in existence since 2010, will change leagues next year and keep their current lion logo and red-and-purple color scheme. While Orlando also will be without a home stadium on opening day, their new arena is already in development and the club’s new home is expected to be ready midway through their inaugural season. Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium will host the team until work is complete.
Major League Soccer is not done growing and expanding with New York and Orlando. The league has already announced a second team for the state of Florida, with an ownership group led by David Beckham. The 22nd MLS franchise is not scheduled to begin league play until the 2017 season, but the league will be well-suited keeping David Beckham involved, even in a managerial capacity. While there is always the danger of over-expanding,something that the NHL has been accused of over the past 15 years, the fact that Major League Soccer is able to sprout new teams is a great sign of health for the league. If it can grow revenue enough to continue to compete internationally for talent, then the next decade may be the one where soccer finally elevates its popularity in the United States closer to worldwide levels.
By Brian Moore
Orlando City Soccer Club