ORLANDO – June 30, 2015 – Orlando City Soccer Club today announced plans to own and operate a USL team in Central Florida for the 2016 season, pending formal approval from USL and Major League Soccer (MLS). In addition, the Club named longtime player and staff coach Anthony Pulis as the new head coach of the USL team.
Orlando City's USL team will provide fans in Central Florida additional high level soccer, with an electric atmosphere and exciting on-field play in the winning tradition of Orlando City's USL past. Fans will have the opportunity to get close to the action in the strongest domestic professional league beyond MLS. Lastly, the new team will expand opportunities for current and future community and corporate partners interested in growing their relationship with the organization.
Not only will the USL club be competing at a high level, it will also provide a foundation for the club to continue its player development system for Homegrown and Academy players alike. The team will train alongside the Club's first team, integrating the same playing philosophy and allowing for the technical staff to accelerate the development of its entire professional player pool.
"Today is yet another significant milestone in the upward growth of Orlando City," said Vice President of Development Tim Holt. "Fielding USL and MLS teams are not mutually exclusive endeavors. We believe both are integral to realizing the future objectives of our Club, which is why our pursuit of a USL team is so critical to our continued success. It will prove to be an important resource, close to home, to help accelerate the training and development of our emerging players. It will also allow for the further expansion of opportunities to connect with our dedicated fan base and the Central Florida sports community well into the future."
"The USL is excited for the prospect of returning to the Orlando area," said USL President Jake Edwards. "Central Florida has a great USL tradition, and a market hungry for high-level professional soccer. This marks a continuation of the USL's focus on broadening its footprint in the southeastern United States."
Orlando City's relationship with Louisville City Soccer Club of the USL will change after the 2015 season, from an affiliation to a formal partnership. The two organizations remain very close given the deep-rooted history of ownership, staff and players and have agreed a long-term partnership between the two clubs. In celebration of the new partnership is today's announcement that Louisville City will host Orlando City for an exhibition match on Tuesday, August 25th at Slugger Field.
"Orlando City has a very successful history in the USL, and we are looking for this new team to build on that winning tradition in the 'Soccer Capital of the South'," said Founder and President Phil Rawlins. "I also want to thank Louisville City SC for their collaboration this year as our Affiliate. Louisville are a first class organization and we will always maintain a close and active working relationship with them. Lastly, congratulations to Anthony Pulis on his new role as Head Coach. I have known Anthony for many years and I am confident that he can be a very successful Head Coach in USL."
Pulis joined Orlando City in 2012 and played a significant role as a player through the 2014 season. He was a part of the Lions USL squad that won two league titles and the famed 2013 Championship. Since his retirement as a player, Pulis has remained with the Club as an Assistant Coach with both the first team and the Academy.
"This is a remarkable opportunity to work with emerging players in our organization for the future benefit of our Club, while returning to compete in the USL, a league in which we were so successful before," said Pulis. "I'd like to thank Flávio, Phil, Paul, Adrian and everyone at the Club for this opportunity, and I look forward to leading our return to the USL in 2016."
Additional details of the new team will be announced in the coming months, including the team name, crest, venue and players. The Club is evaluating stadium alternatives throughout Central Florida with a focus on a stadium that will provide for an exciting, vibrant fan atmosphere and be well-suited for USL soccer.
Orlando City will return to the Orlando Citrus Bowl on Tuesday, June 30, for the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match-up against MLS Eastern Conference rivals Columbus Crew SC. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.