Exploria Stadium opened its doors for the SheBelieves Cup on March 5, 2020, one of three host cities for a tournament that would become the last played in the United States before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down professional sports across the world.
This week, the SheBelieves Cup is back at Exploria Stadium. And it’s not alone.
The home of Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride has become the soccer capital of America over the past several months, playing host to friendlies from both the United States Men’s and Women’s National Teams, the CONCACAF Champions League, and SheBelieves Cup since the conclusion of the MLS season and the NWSL Fall Series.
National soccer writer Grant Wahl might have put it best during the USWNT’s SheBelieves game against Canada on February 18:
“Hosting such large-scale events both in the sport of soccer and beyond is something we take a tremendous amount of pride in. Since Exploria Stadium opened just four years ago, the Orlando community has continued to prove itself as the soccer capital of the U.S.,” Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão said. “I could not be more proud of all the work that we put in as a Club to accomplish hosting such events and cannot wait to see what more we accomplish moving forward.”
Even before 2020, Exploria Stadium was establishing itself as a top destination. The USMNT is undefeated in four matches in the building since debuting in a demolition of Panama in 2017 World Cup qualifying, while the USWNT is 5-0 in Orlando dating back to the 2018 SheBelieves Cup. The stadium also hosted the 2017 NWSL Championship game, the 2019 MLS All-Star Game, three editions of the Florida Cup, and the 2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup final.
“When you talk about great environments, the atmosphere in this stadium is one of the best in the country,” said USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter in November 2019 ahead of what would be a 4-1 win for the United States over Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League. “Like we’ve seen in previous visits, the fans in Orlando are there when you need them and we look forward to their support.”
Exploria Stadium has even branched out beyond soccer. The venue ventured into college football when it hosted the 2019 Cure Bowl between Liberty and Georgia Southern, and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra became the first professional orchestra to perform a full concert at an American soccer stadium when it played Exploria Stadium on September 26, 2020. The Philharmonic returned for a second show on January 9, 2021.
The home of the Lions and the Pride is looking forward to a busy 2021, with the NWSL Challenge Cup set to begin on April 9 (with a regular season to follow) and the 2021 MLS regular season opening on April 17.