There has been a lot of expansion talk in surrounding MLS lately with the recent announcement that Miami will be awarded the league’s 22nd franchise once they secure a building spot for their new stadium. With commissioner Don Garber stating the league’s intention to be at 24 teams by 2020, rumors have been swirling about which cities will claim those franchises with Atlanta, Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Antonio and Sacramento all being included in that conversation. Here though, we are going to look at club No. 20 and No. 21 and their different paths towards MLS.
New York City Football Club was announced as the league’s 20th franchise on May 21, 2013; the expansion rights are being purchased by a group including the owners of Manchester City FC from the English Premier League and the New York Yankees of baseball. This announcement fulfilled a statement that Garber had made in 2010 that the league had intended to place a franchise in the New York metropolitan area.
There were more questions than answers at the introductory press conference including where the team would call home. With the arrival of the club coming less than two years from the announcement, there would not be enough time to build a soccer-specific stadium that could be ready by the time first kick arrived in March 2015.
The club stated in their original plan to the MLS that they would build their stadium in the borough of Queens at Flushing Meadows near the site of the New York Mets‘ ballpark while playing temporarily at Yankee Stadium. This site was met with great opposition from the public due to the site being a public park as well as opposition from the Mets due to the proximity to their stadium. Officials with the club would eventually scrap the plans for a new proposal that would put the new stadium near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The stadium is due to open in 2018 if approval is given from the city.
Since New York City FC is being started from scratch they were in need of a front office as well as a manager. They got their man in December when former Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis signed on to take the reins.
Orlando City Soccer Club was officially welcomed into MLS on Nov. 19, 2013 with the expansion rights being purchased by Flavio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins, who currently own the Orlando City franchise in the third-tier USL Pro League. The club would play a final USL Pro season in 2014 before jumping to MLS in 2015; a move that had been done before by the Seattle Sounders FC, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps upon their respective entrances to the league.
This announcement was made one month after the local country board of commissioners approved the use of tourist development tax funds to help build the new soccer-specific stadium which would house the club upon entry to the league. The new 20,000-seat Orlando City Stadium will be completed during the summer of 2015, with Orlando City using the revamped Citrus Bowl as their temporary home until the project is completed.
It is very interesting how different the paths are for these clubs as they prepare to join the league in one year. New York City FC will be relying heavily on the Manchester City/New York Yankees’ fan base to help them be successful while Orlando City SC has already built a very solid fan base in their market. My belief is that both clubs will be successful in the long run though New York City FC may stumble a little bit coming out of the gates. Orlando will have to deal with an isolation problem like Seattle dealt with during their first two years in the league. DC United will be Orlando’s nearest opponent at over 800 miles away until the new Miami franchise joins MLS.