By VINCE MADURI
ORLANDO, Fla.– On Monday, Orlando City unveiled new owner Flávio Augusto da Silva, a Brazilian businessman who is the third largest shareholder of media giant Abril Educação. The announcement comes as the latest in several strategic moves the club hopes will position it to gain admittance to Major League Soccer in 2015.
Club president Phil Rawlins says the move gives Orlando City “a complete platform to build on moving forward.”
“Soccer is not a sport of the future in the US. It is a reality,” da Silva said during his press conference before highlighting Major League Soccer’s stellar attendance figures in comparison with the rest of the world (the league is 7th in all attendance on the planet).
The Brazilian said he and his business partner, Alexandre Leitão of Octagon Brazil, chose Orlando over several other cities after they decided to invest in American soccer, more specifically the MLS.
“I received three different cities that [a research firm I hired] believed would be a great opportunity to start a new franchise,” da Silva said after the press conference. “These three cities are located here in the southeastern [United States]. But we chose Orlando because, first of all, Brazilians love Orlando. But also because Orlando is a great city to invest in soccer, mainly because Orlando City already has more than 7,000 average fans per game in attendance. So, we are miles ahead compared to the other cities, so we decided to invest in Orlando.”
Da Silva said he hopes eventually to make Orlando City a “global brand” that benefits both the Orlando economy as well as Brazil.
“Brazil has a special desire to come to the US. The most visited city in the US by Brazilians is Orlando. So, we are sure that having a soccer team to come watch would be very attractive to the Brazilians. They could buy the tickets in Brazil, the same way they buy tickets to Disney or Universal they could buy tickets to Orlando City especially if they have a Brazilian superstar in the team.”
Regarding the Brazilian superstar, the new Orlando City owner says they hope to bring a “Brazilian Beckham” to the team by 2015 or 2016 following the World Cup and once Orlando is admitted to Major League Soccer.
“We have many people in mind but we have one especially. I can’t tell you who right now obviously, but soon we are going to [announce] which great player we plan on bringing.”
Until last week, Flávio Augusto chaired the Ometz Group, with 16 holding companies, including the country’s leading English language schools for adults, Wise Up (FIFA World Cup Sponsor). On February 7th, the Ometz Group was acquired by Abril Educação, one of Brazil’s largest media companies. Today, Mr. da Silva still leads the Wise Up Group and is also the third largest shareholder in Abril Educação. As part of the acquisition, Mr. da Silva will oversee the development of Abril Educação operations around the world.