A recent report out of Orlando has put the city in the center of recent NWSL expansion talk. Discussion about adding teams to the third-year league has heightened in the wake of bumps in attendance and interest following the World Cup. The report on otowns11.com stressed that Major League Soccer side Orlando City SC had not issued any official statement about the club’s desire to add a women’s team to compete in the top flight. Monday, Orlando City vice president of communications Leonardo Santiago provided the following statement to The Equalizer.
“First, we’re very proud of the U.S. women’s national team on winning the FIFA World Cup last month. Orlando has proven itself to be the ‘Soccer Capital of the South’ with tremendous fan support for the MLS team and very high local ratings for televised soccer. Additionally, Orlando City boasts one of the nation’s most competitive girls youth clubs featuring high-performing teams in the prestigious ECNL (Elite Clubs National League). Considering the massive support for top-caliber soccer in Central Florida, Orlando City will continue to evaluate all opportunities to bring the highest levels of the sport to the market in the future.”
Orlando City are in their debut season in MLS. Through 10 of 17 home matches the club is exceeding attendance expectations with an average of 34,005 according to the bigsoccer.com attendance thread. The team currently plays at the Citrus Bowl but are planning to build their own soccer stadium. Ownership recently announced the new stadium would have a capacity north of 25,000. That is generally considered too big for an NWSL club. Also the stadium will not be ready in time for the 2016 season.
NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush has not gone public with any cities or groups expressing interest in expansion only to say “well over a dozen” different groups are at some level of dialogue with the league. Several of those groups are MLS clubs. Plush went on to say that the door is not yet closed on 2016.
“It gets more challenging as it gets later in the year,” he said. “An organization that has the resources and the specific soccer pedigree and infrastructure, it’s not too late.”
The league hopes to make some sort of announcement regarding expansion next month.
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