Orlando City SC was formed in 2010, when Phil and Kay Rawlins purchased the USL PRO rights for Central Florida and moved the Austin Aztex organization to Orlando. Rawlins immediately set their sights on bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to Central Florida within three to five years.
The Club's first major accomplishment was signing Orlando Health as the jersey sponsor. Their early commitment to the Club allowed it to flourish quickly, and the Lions soon began to prove their on-field performance would match the Club’s off-field success, winning both the regular season, and ultimately the Championship in their first year, in one of the most thrilling finals in US soccer history.
Orlando City quickly developed a dedicated and passionate fan base, leading USL PRO in attendance figures over each of its first three seasons playing at the Citrus Bowl. For the 2013 USL PRO Championship game, the Club's campaign to draw 15,000 fans (dubbed #Mission15k) resulted in attendance of over 20,000 for the thrilling 7-4 victory, setting the record for any minor league sporting event in the U.S.
Major League Soccer
Orlando City’s on-field success, swelling crowds and strong business support caught the interest of Major League Soccer, leading the MLS Commissioner to state that it was a case of "when, not if" Orlando City would be awarded a league franchise.
The commissioner set three conditions for Orlando to be awarded a franchise. First, we had to prove the market could support Major League Soccer. Second, there had to be a strong ownership group with the financial resources to operate at the highest level and lastly, the team had to play in a soccer-specific stadium.
Our increasing fan base and the market’s growing interest in soccer easily met the first condition. When Flávio Augusto da Silva, a wealthy Brazilian entrepreneur with a deep passion for the game, invested the club and became majority owner – condition two was met.
The final check mark was a downtown soccer stadium. The Club worked hard to privately fund new soccer-specific stadium in the heart of Downtown Orlando. Massive grass-roots efforts by fans helped convince elected officials, and with the leadership of Mayors Dyer and Jacobs, the stadium project was given the green light.
With all of the boxes checked, thousands of fans packed the Cheyenne Saloon on Wall Street, and thousands more filled the streets outside in late November of 2013 to watch Don Garber award Orlando City the 21st MLS franchise.
On October 16, 2014, thousands of City fans marched to the site of Orlando City's downtown stadium project to see team, city, and league officials break ground on the site.
As the ceremonial dig took place, featuring purple shovels and 24 tons of purple sand. In addition, fans were able to participate in the groundbreaking after the formal dig, receiving a commemorative jar containing a sampling of the exclusive purple sand.
Orlando City Majority Owner Flávio Augusto da Silva, President and Founder Phil Rawlins, Major League Soccer President Mark Abbott, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs addressed the attendees at the stadium site, showcasing their eagerness for the newest addition to the vibrant and expanding sports & entertainment district in Downtown Orlando.
#FillTheBowl - The First Match
March 8, 2015. It was a day those in attendance will remember forever. 62,510 City fans flooded the Orlando Citrus Bowl for the teams inaugural MLS match against fellow expansion club New York City FC. The match was the largest ever for a soccer game at the Orlando Citrus Bowl and the second largest opening weekend for a MLS franchise.
New York City FC took the lead in the 75th minute, but a Kaká free kick in stoppage time deflected off the wall and found the back of the net saving the day for the Lions.
The club would notch their first MLS victory the following week with a 1-0 result over the Houston Dynamo on the road.
A Privately Funded Stadium
On May 29, 2015, Orlando City SC made the historic announce that they would be privately funding 100% of their new Downtown Stadium. The City of Orlando agreed to sell the property in Parramore designated as the site for the downtown soccer stadium to Orlando City Soccer Club, and the Club agreed to develop the stadium. Orlando City SC are the sole owners and operators of the venue.
The club also unveiled plans to increase the stadium capacity. That number landed at 25,500 when new stadium renderings were shared on July 31, 2015.
Welcome Orlando Pride and OCB
On October 15, 2015, Orlando City SC announced it would launch Orlando City B, a USL side that would start play in 2016. The team would be coached by former Lions player Anthony Pulis and play in Brevard at Eastern Florida State College.
Just five days later, the club would introduce another team. On October 20, 2015, in front of a large crowd at Lake Eola, the club announced that Orlando would be the newest National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) team. The Orlando Pride were official, and shortly after they would announce their first group of signings that included USWNT star Alex Morgan.
Exploria Stadium Opens
On March 5, 2017 Exploria Stadium opened its doors for the first time. A sellout crowd of 25,550 watched as Orlando City defeated New York City FC 1-0.
Not long after it's opening, it was announced that Exploria Stadium would host a United States Mens National Team World Cup Qualifier as well as the 2017 National Women's Soccer League Final.