ORLANDO, Fla.—Orlando City SC held a news conference at the Amway Center FAIRWINDS Tower Room on Monday, February 18, reaffirming their commitment to bringing Major League Soccer (MLS) to Orlando by introducing new Orlando City Owner Flavio Augusto da Silva to local members of the press. Silva reinforced that his investment was a clear indicator of bringing a MLS franchise to Central Florida.
“The potential for soccer in the U.S. is huge and I will do what it takes to get Orlando City to the MLS,” said Silva during the press conference. “Soccer is not a sport of the future. It is a reality in the U.S.”
The press conference came off the heels of the club announcing the former owner of WiseUp language schools making a significant investment in the club, which was finalized Friday morning. The investment will be used for the club’s share of a private/publicly funded multi-purpose soccer stadium in downtown Orlando and future acquisition of an MLS franchise.
Silva told those in attendance that he chose Orlando after his advisor, Alexandre Leitao of Octagon Brazil, suggested investing in Orlando due to the infrastructure already in place on top of the attractive market that Orlando and Central Florida represent. The existing ownership group, which includes President Phil Rawlins, will remain in place and continue to run day-to-day operations at Orlando City.
“We chose Orlando because, first of all, Brazilians love Orlando,” Silva said. “But also because Orlando is a great city to invest in soccer, mainly because Orlando City already averages 7,000 fans per game in attendance. We are miles ahead compared to other cities, so we decided to invest in Orlando.”
The new owner stressed his connections with Brazil, which will be shown in future movements made by that the club on and off the pitch. Silva also wants Orlando City to become a global brand, one that is not just recognizable in the United States but also Brazil.
President Phil Rawlins, who also spoke at the conference, was asked what a potential timeline looks like for Orlando City to become an MLS franchise, with him saying the club playing its first year in 2015 is what they are pushing for. Rawlins also answered questions on the potential downtown soccer stadium, saying it is a must to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Central Florida.
“It is absolutely vital for us to be admitted into the league,” Rawlins said.
The stadium, which will cost an estimated $110 million including land costs, is still in the discussion phase between club and political leaders. Rawlins hopes the two sides can come together with a framework to present to MLS by summertime, with an announcement of Orlando joining the major leagues potentially coming by the end of this year. As part of Silva’s investment, Orlando City will fund $30 million for the private portion of the private/public split. The club will also provide the franchise fee for admittance into MLS, which could range from $40-50 million.