By MIKE GRAMAJO
After months of negotiations between Orlando City president Phil Rawlins and minority owner Wayne Estopinal, Orlando’s USL Pro franchise is officially relocating to Kentucky. Louisville City FC is expected to begin play in 2015.
Estiponal, a Louisville architect, will become majority owner, while Orlando City will retain a minority ownership interest in the USL franchise. Louisville will also function as Orlando City’s USL affiliate, allowing Orlando to loan at least four players per season to Louisville.
“We are excited for the future of pro soccer in Louisville,” Rawlins said in a statement. “It’s a perfect USL Pro marketplace. I feel strongly that Louisville will be a successful team both on and off the field for years to come.”
The Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Tulsa Roughnecks, and St. Louis FC will join USL Pro next season, expanding USL Pro to 18 teams.
Louisville City will play its home matches at Slugger Field, home of the Triple-A minor league baseball team Louisville Bats.
Estopinal told people in the audience that 278 season ticket deposits have already been made prior to the announcement.
James O’Connor, currently an Orlando City player and assistant coach, will become Louisville’s head coach, effective immediately.
“For some of our younger players now, next year they’ll end up in Louisville,” OCSC head coach Adrian Heath told SBI. “Even some of the players we draft next year will go [to Louisville].”
The Lions will retain their current affiliation with Sporting Kansas City until the end of the 2014 season.
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