Honor Thy History is a recurring series throughout the 2024 MLS regular season on, highlighting some of the names and faces that have helped build Orlando City's history, from USL Pro to present day.

In January, before the 2024 MLS season got underway, former Orlando City SC midfielder Charlie Campbell walked the concourse of INTER&Co Stadium for the very first time. In fact, it had been his first time back to Orlando in over 10 years.

He had watched games on TV, of course, but being there in person, walking around the stadium that was set as a goal for the minor league team in the early years, was a special feeling.

"From my point of view, Orlando City's always tried to be the gold standard, very professional, and top class, so I'm not surprised at how far they've come," Campbell said to "From the stadium to the fan base and everything that they've done in the community with Kay [Rawlins]. This club has always had big ambition."

Campbell was one of the first players to play for Orlando City's USL Pro iteration back in 2011, after joining the Lions just ahead of their first season of competitive play. Funnily enough, he was drafted in the Second Round of that year's MLS SuperDraft to FC Dallas, where current Lions Head Coach Oscar Pareja was an assistant.

After playing with FC Dallas in preseason against Orlando City, Campbell signed with the USL Pro team later in the year. Making his mark in the midfield for the final half of the season, the rookie played an integral part in the championship-winning side, in the regular season and playoffs, including playing in that memorable 2011 championship match.

Being able to see the banner from that season hang proudly in the rafters of the stadium was a special moment for Campbell, knowing that what he did on the field, even in a small way, helped Orlando City get their stadium, was gratifying for the former pro.

"It's just very rewarding to see how far the club has come with the stadium and the club as a whole," he said. "Even adding the Pride, the youth academies and all sorts of different elements that the club has grown into. It's cool to see that you played some part and paved the way from the early days and that people are reaping the benefits of that now, from the players and community to the fans, ownership and club personnel. Back then, there wasn't the infrastructure or anything that there is now in place, and so it's very cool and rewarding to see."


Campbell went on to play in the 2012 season with the Lions, and he was named Clubman of the Year by then-manager Adrian Heath. He then left to head overseas for a year, eventually retiring from pro soccer in 2013. After spending time coaching collegiately with his alma mater, the University of Louisville, then at Saint Mary's University, the former midfielder took his career in another direction. Still remaining in soccer, Campbell is now Managing Director of COPA Soccer Training Center, a state-of-the-art soccer facility just outside of San Francisco, where he helps shape the next generation of players to reach the professional level.

Now over 10 years removed from playing, Campbell fondly reminisces about the good old days of Orlando City. He jokes that he talks to his former Lions teammates more than he does with some of his old high school or college friends. It's one of the things he misses the most about his time in Orlando.

"My favorite moments with that team was very, very tight-knit," he said, "A lot of that had to do with the fact we were carpooling to practice every day because we're all coming from the same apartment complex. People are hanging out in the locker room. When we go home, we're all hanging out by the pool or going to play golf together, doing a community event with Kay [Rawlins] out at some middle school together. We were like family rather than distant teammates. While some of the best parts were on the training ground, playing a game or lifting the trophy, some of the best moments were just developing those bonds and relationships with all the guys on the team."


With the way professional clubs operate now in 2024, it's extraordinary to think how differently things were just 13 years ago. Back in the early days of Orlando City, players were all sharing apartments, doing their own laundry and training at different fields. In Campbell's own words, "it felt like a startup business."

In many ways, he was right. The Lions were just starting to get a foothold in the community in Orlando after moving the team from Texas and the infrastructure was still building, along with fan engagement.

That first year, winning both the regular season and postseason titles, helped set the groundwork for the future of soccer in Orlando. Popularity grew, friends brought friends to games, and by 2013, the Lions had 20,000-plus fans watching the wildest cup final in team history, still to this day. Just two years after that, MLS came to the City Beautiful, and the rest is history.

As the old adage goes, "from humble beginnings, come great things."