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Orlando stadium delays move ’16 College Cup to Cary

Orlando's 25,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, which will be home to Orlando Pride and Orlando City SC, won't be ready until 2017. (Photo: Orlando City SC)

Orlando’s 25,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, which will be home to Orlando Pride and Orlando City SC, won’t be ready until 2017. (Photo: Orlando City SC)

Lost in the recent shuffle of NWSL Draft news were two significant related items affecting women’s soccer in the southeast. Stadium delays in Orlando for the new home of MLS’ Orlando City SC and NWSL’s Orlando Pride mean the new 25,000-seat stadium in downtown Orlando won’t be ready until 2017. The initial target date for completion of the stadium was mid-2016.

That means the Pride and City will play their entire NWSL and MLS seasons, respectively, in the 61,00-seat Citrus Bowl.

“Unfortunately, stadium construction is taking a little longer than anticipated,” Orlando City SC founder and president Phil Rawlins said. “Therefore, in order to provide enough time, we have taken the prudent decision to play the entire 2016 season in the Orlando Citrus Bowl, and concentrate our construction efforts on being fully prepared for opening in 2017.

This news reverberates beyond just Orlando. The 2016 Women’s College Cup was slated to take place in Orlando’s new stadium, but the delay in construction means a change of plans for the College Cup. The 2016 Women’s College Cup will return to Cary, N.C., for the second straight year and is slated for Dec. 2-4, 2016.

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Cary, located just outside of Raleigh, N.C., has become a common stop for the Women’s College Cup. This will mark the eighth time the WakeMed Soccer Park has hosted the event (2003-2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2015) and the 18th time the championship has been played in the state of North Carolina.

The new Orlando stadium was slated to host the championship back-to-back in 2016 and 2017, so the plan for 2017 is still to have it in central Florida.

“The committee is dedicated to providing a quality environment for the student-athletes, and we have had tremendous success creating that environment in Cary and appreciate the city stepping up to host the 2016 Women’s College Cup,” said Janet Oberle, chair of the Division I Women’s Soccer Committee. “We are also looking forward to hosting the championship in a new stadium in Orlando in 2017.”

In 2015, Cary set an overall attendance record of 25,011, including 13,329 for the championship game, making it the second-highest championship game attendance in College Cup history. Penn State defeated Duke in the final, 1-0, behind a goal from eventual MAC Hermann Trophy winner Raquel Rodriguez, who on Friday was picked No. 2 overall in the NWSL College Draft by Sky Blue FC.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Orlando City Soccer Club has agreed to pay the city approximately $18 million for the land on which the team’s $155 million stadium will be built. Interestingly, the club would only be tied to the stadium for the next 10 years. Orlando City will reportedly be required to play at least 80 percent of its home games in the new stadium or the Citrus Bowl over that time period; there is no mention of the Pride’s role in that.

The Citrus Bowl features artificial turf; the new downtown stadium will feature a natural grass playing surface.

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