On behalf of everyone at Orlando City Soccer Club, I’d first like to thank the many important people and organizations without which this historic event would not be possible - Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, the MLS Board of Governors, the entire MLS executive staff, the City of Orlando, Orange County, Osceola County and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission.
I’d also like to thank Target for being the presenting partner of this incredible annual event. And, of course, thank you to the entire Orlando City front office and technical staff for their tireless work over the last few months to showcase our incredible city and Club this week.
When I came to the United States, I had a vision of what soccer could be in the city of Orlando.
I saw loud, dedicated fans who chanted, cheered and willed their team to victory from the stands.
I saw fans who took pride in their home and the badge on their shirt.
I saw fans who would make Orlando the best soccer city in America.
Now, just seven years later, that vision is a reality.
When you walk through this city, you are surrounded by purple on every corner.
Look at a car and you’ll see an Orlando City magnet.
Look at a window or a front porch and you’ll see an Orlando City flag.
Pick out a person on the street and you’ll find our crest.
And this week, when we welcome one of the biggest events in American soccer, we have proven that Orlando is exactly what I thought it could be. In just five short years in MLS, Orlando City has become one of the most relevant clubs in the United States. A Club that has brought international superstars such as Kaka, Nani and 26 All-Star players to Orlando.
People from around the world are here to celebrate the sport we love...We are hosting some of the most influential members of our sport - FIFA...Major League Soccer...the All-Stars who will represent our league and Wednesday’s opponent...One of the biggest clubs in Europe, Atletico Madrid.
I, of course, have to mention our star-studded women’s team, as well, the Orlando Pride which features nine players who competed in this year’s Women’s World Cup and three World Champions in Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan - who you can also catch as a judge at tomorrow’s Skills Challenge.
And, as if we needed any more proof of this city’s place in the soccer landscape, the greatest female player of all time, Marta, has chosen to make the Pride and the city of Orlando her home.
The best atmosphere in American soccer can be found right here, in Orlando, at Exploria Stadium. A stadium that this week will host the All-Star game and next week will be the site of another major milestone in the Club’s history when our Lions host our first-ever U.S. Open Cup semifinal match in front of what we know will be another amazing crowd.
I am so proud and honored to be a part of this league, this Club and this incredible city.
Congratulations, again, to everyone who has made this week and these events a success already. Enjoy all of the incredible events that this week, and the city of Orlando, has to offer.
Thank you and Vamos Orlando!
- Flavio Augusto da Silva