The National Women’s Soccer League unveiled its 10th franchise on Tuesday, the Orlando Pride. The Pride will begin competing next season, in 2016, and will be coached by Tom Sermanni, who previously coached the Australia and United States women’s national teams.
“The time is right for women’s professional soccer here in Central Florida, and we are excited to launch this new team for 2016. We want to win championships and build one of the best women’s teams in world soccer,” Orlando City SC and Pride founder and president Phil Rawlins said in a statement. While introducing the team on Tuesday, Rawlins lauded his organization for delivering on its word to bring Orlando a men’s soccer team, a downtown stadium, top world players — like Brazilian Kaka for Orlando City SC — and, now, a women’s professional team.
The Orlando Pride’s roster will be filled out in the coming weeks through an expansion process which sources say should be very similar to the one used to introduce the Houston Dash to the NWSL ahead of the 2014 season. Orlando will have the top spot in the discovery and waiver tie-breakers before a freeze on the trade window at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 23 until Nov. 2, when the expansion draft will take place. Orlando will also receive the first pick in each round of the 2016 NWSL College Draft.
For that Houston roster-building expansion draft, current teams were not allowed to protect more than two allocated United States players, and Houston could not select more than two allocated U.S. players. Playoff teams from 2013 were allowed to protect nine players and non-playoff teams were allowed to protect 10 players.
Orlando City SC is in the process of completing a 25,500-seat downtown stadium which is scheduled to open next summer, midway through the MLS and NWSL seasons.
Orlando becomes the third NWSL franchise owned by a group which also owns the city’s Major League Soccer franchise, joining Portland Thorns FC (sister club of Portland Timbers FC) and the Houston Dash (sister club of the Houston Dynamo).
Portland has been the league’s most successful team off the field, drawing 15,639 fans per game in 2015, well over triple the average attendance of every other team in the league except for Houston, which finished with an average attendance of 6,413 fans over 10 home matches.
In 2000, Orlando was slated to be one of the eight original cities in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), but the franchise — which would have been named Orlando Tempest — was relocated to North Carolina before the start of the inaugural season in 2001 due to an inability to secure a home stadium. Thus began the start of the Carolina Courage until the league folded after the 2003 season.
Current NWSL franchises are based in Boston; Chicago; Houston; Kansas City; Orlando; Piscataway, N.J.; Portland, Ore.; Rochester, N.Y.; Seattle and greater Washington, D.C. (Boyds, Md.).