After more than a half-decade of searching, Orlando City B has found its home.
This year, for the first time ever, Major League Soccer will host a dedicated reserve league for MLS clubs seeking to build a pathway between their academies and their first teams. After spending time in the original United Soccer League and then USL League One, OCB re-launches in the all-new MLS Next Pro this weekend, as the Young Lions begin their season against Chicago Fire FC II this Saturday at Osceola County Stadium.
“We’re very excited,” said OCB forward Moises Tablante. “We’ve been working so hard the whole preseason for this day. Hopefully we’ll get the full three points.”
Orlando City B will be one of 21 clubs competing in the inaugural MLS Next Pro season, all but two of which are MLS reserve sides. With a roster composed primarily of Orlando City Academy products and players, new Head Coach Martín Perelman is prepared to develop.
“Well we have a young group,” Perelman said ahead of the season opener. “Here in Orlando, [Academy Director] Marcelo Neveleff and his staff did a great, great job with the Academy. So we are here to continue that…and help everybody. I’m really happy with the players we have, with the job they did, so everything is good.”
Tablante is a perfect example of the sort of player Orlando City B can help thrive. The Venezuelan has been part of the Orlando City Academy for four years and played on the previous version of OCB in USL League One. Still just 20 years old, he sees MLS Next Pro as his chance to make it to the top flight.
“It’s been a long way with the Academy,” Tablante said. “I’ve been with the Academy for the last four years, now with the MLS Next Pro and hopefully for the First Team…I’ve been really surprised because with this MLS Next Pro, we used to play USL and now I feel like it’s a new league with new teammates. I’m just looking forward to the first game.”
Orlando City B will also provide a place for Orlando City First Team players to gain valuable minutes throughout the season, with the club able to loan players down to the MLS Next Pro side.
“We said that we are like a bridge from the Academy to the First Team,” said Perelman of his team’s dual roles. “I like to say that we are the belt of the suit, we adjust the trousers and the shirt. We are in the middle. This is really good work that I love to do. We’ll try to help the First Team when they need space to play, and we’ll try to finish the process they started in the Academy.”