Orlando (AFP) – The Orlando City Lions will join Major League Soccer in 2015 as the North American league’s 21st club, team and league officials announced on Tuesday.
The squad, which will play one final season in the third-tier United Soccer League in 2014 in quest of a third title at that level, will jump to MLS in 2015, the same year the team’s new $84 million downtown stadium is set to open.
“We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said. “From the success of the Orlando City Soccer Club to the incredible fan support and passion in the community, this is a new market that really excites us.”
Orlando City will play its first MLS home matches in the Citrus Bowl gridiron stadium until its new venue is complete.
Brazilian multimillionaire entrepreneur Flavio Augusto da Silva and Britain’s Phil Rawlins, a part owner of English Premier League side Stoke City, are owners of the new MLS club, the 11th expansion team in MLS since the start of the 2005 season. Three more clubs will be added by 2020.
“Orlando is a special city with amazing fans that have embraced the beautiful game and we have no doubt that Orlando City will become the next success story in MLS,” Da Silva said.
“It is a dream come true to bring Major League Soccer to Orlando,” Rawlins said. “Fans in Orlando have clearly demonstrated that they are ready for MLS and we look forward to celebrating with them and working together to set a new standard in this country.”
AFP Photo/Joe Robbins