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Report: Orlando City’s USL Pro franchise relocating to Louisville

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Orlando City will move out of USL Pro and into MLS in 2015, but that does not mean that the franchise will lose its place in the third division. It will remain, just in a different city.

The rights to Orlando City’s USL Pro franchise will head to Louisville, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, and will be renamed Louisville City FC in a relocation that was headed by Orlando City minority owner and Louisville architect Wayne Estopinal. It is expected that a formal announcement will come on Wednesday.

Louisville City FC is expected to continue to use Orlando City’s purple color scheme despite implementing a new logo that pays homage to the area with a gold Fleur-de-lis in front of a purple barrel. It is also anticipated that current Orlando City player-coach James O’Connor will be named the full-time head coach of the Louisville team, and that the club will play its home games at Slugger Field. Fans have already committed to purchasing roughly 2,000 season-ticket packages.

As part of the deal, Orlando City have agreed to make Louisville City FC their USL Pro affiliate for five years. That means the Lions will have to send four players a season to Louisville for development.

In terms of scheduling, Louisville City FC will have to work around Triple-A baseball team Louisville Bats’ schedule. The Bats are the primary tenants at Slugger Field, but have agreed to allow the stadium to be used for soccer the day after a baseball game is played.

“They have to determine if that works, and as far as the actual structure of the deal, I’m not going to disclose all of the details but it’s pretty much designed to be that the soccer team doesn’t pay much in the way of rent,” said Bats CEO Gary Ulmer. “They just pay for their expenses, and we control the concessions. If we can make some concession money to help us operate this stadium, we’re always looking for other events to do that.”

Added Estopinal: “I think it needs to be understood that this is a very new venture for Louisville, the city and the Bats. We’re all working together. We’re all learning each day how to do that. It’s a very passionate sport. We’ll work our way through this, and hopefully, we’ll have the announcement Wednesday and see it forward.”

What do you think of the move to Louisville? Think the city will support the USL Pro team well? Impressed with Orlando City’s moves ahead of their arrival to MLS?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. If Louisville ends up in MLS, does this mean that the ownership will pass on the purple-and-gold to some other deserving midsize city? Like some weird soccer inheritance.

    The Don: “And I, Don Garber, by the grace of the United States Soccer Federation and other moneybags Commissioner of this American league (which includes three Canadian teams for reasons not linked in any way to money), CEO of soccer marketing, and defender of the single-entity faith, do take thy money and promote thee, humble Louisville, to the esteemed ranks of the MLS.”

    [All intone] : “AND SO IT SHALL BE SO.”

    “And thus the rights of the USL Pro franchise will pass on to Madison, Wisconsin. Their crest shall be the badger, in purple and gold…”

  2. Louisville is a great soccer town. I can easily see rivalries developing with Dayton and St. Louis. Maybe St. Louis and Louisville could eventually duke it out for a fleur-de-lis cup.

  3. Saying pro/rel will never happen is asinine. If a MLS 2 model did emerge and was built to almost be a mirror image of MLS than it could happen in time. Model would be a much lower entry fee but stadium requirement. Maybe a 10x capacity made to be expandable. You bring in your San Diego, Minneapolis, San Antonio, Detroit, Sacramento, Charlotte, Phoenix, Tampa types. Maybe you you start the league when you have enough cities with stadium commitments. You secondary markets that MLS doesnt have room for. Let them have teams and stadiums in good locations that fans can get behind. Whoever thought Salt Lake would be a thriving soccer market? Let the league build itself with MLS support and then all of the sudden you can send teams down and not have them playing in a minor league baseball stadium but modern SSS. Would it suck and would MLS 1 team lose money? Yes. That is the point. You do not want to be the sorry bastard that comes in last.

    • You’ve just answered your own question as to why it isn’t going to happen. If you owned an MLS team why on earth would you ever agree to a deal that includes the possibility that you get relegated to a lower league, one that would guarantee you make a lot less money? Simple answer, you wouldn’t. If you were one of the television networks would you be likely to bid more money or less money if it were possible for say Los Angeles to have a bad season and all of the sudden no longer be in the MLS, to be replaced by say Sacramento? Or if New York could be replaced by Rochester?

      Promotion/relegation will never happen. It’s asinine to think otherwise. You are asking people who have a lot of money and who have a lot of money invested in an MLS team to take the chance that one bad season makes their investment worth considerably less. Fans might think that’s great, but rich people don’t. Under what scenario would a majority of MLS owners agree to a system that has almost no upside for them but has a potential huge downside? How dumb would MLS owners have to be to agree to something like that?

      • Never is a long time and maybe the cost benefit is there eventually. If you have a viable and thriving second division or competing league, one that turns a profit, and is made up of strongly supported teams than its not out of the question . You think in myopic terms and apparently have no taste for the future and what variables it can bring. Just like the AFL and NFL merging due to competitive pressures.. A strong, popular, built out competitor league could force owners hands eventually. Never, pfft. Hilarious that people get so worked up over the very notion.

      • But the AFL and the NFL didn’t come together in a promotion/relegation scenario. They merged together as a marriage of (near) equals. It didn’t require the owners of the NFL to agree to a deal that potentially could cost them tens of millions of dollars, indeed it gave the NFL owners a measure of cost savings because they would no longer be competing with the AFL for players and driving up the cost of contracts.

        The two situations are almost exactly opposites, and the fact that you think that because on the one hand owners made a deal that guaranteed a reduction of their labor costs and increased their profits is the same thing as owners on the other hand doing something that won’t make them any extra money but could potentially cost them tens of millions of dollars shows that you really don’t understand the situation.

        Let me ask you this. Let’s say you bought an MLS team. Paid $100 million for it. And the next day they asked you to vote on a promotion/relegation system. Maybe you know your team isn’t really that good right now, but you are planning on building for the future, so relegation is at least a possibility for you. You also know that if you are playing in MLS you get $5 million per year in national television money and if you get relegated you get no national television money. And you now get $2 million in local television money and if you get relegated you will get none (or almost none). And you know that your attendance is going to take a hit if you get relegated from MLS, costing you money. And you know that you are going to have to reduce the prices on the tickets you do sell since you are playing in a lower league, costing you even more money. And your sponsors aren’t going to be paying as much money for sponsorships either, because their exposure is greatly reduced in the lower league, costing you even more money. And oh, yeah, let’s not forget that the franchise that you just paid $100 million for will now be worth, say $10 million (minor league soccer teams in the US aren’t worth anywhere close to that, but let’s be generous here). So how are you voting?

        I don’t know about you, but the people who have enough money to buy MLS teams are not the kinds of people who look at the potential costs of a promotion/relegation system with no upside for them what so ever and say “yeah, sign me up for that thing that might completely eviscerate my investment.”

        That’s why promotion/relegation isn’t going to happen. Not now, not next year, not next decade. Because the people who would have to vote to change to that system have lots to lose and nothing to gain from doing so. MLS team owners don’t care that fans in Dayton might think it would be cool if they could climb the ladder and make it to MLS, because that doesn’t make them any money. Indeed, it likely costs them money. And it costs the one who’s team gets relegated in favor of Dayton (or whomever) a whole lot. Why set yourself up to potentially be that guy when you don’t have to? So are you voting to potentially ruin your investment and cost yourself tens of millions of dollars to implement a system because it would be kind of cool to have it, or are you voting to keep all those millions for yourself and your fellow current owners? And more importantly, which way do you think the people who actually own the teams are going to be voting?

      • Joe Soccer: the financial argument you make is the same I have made before, so we are in agreement. Where I disagree is with your absolutism.

        I can envision scenarios where the majority—not the bottom teams, but the majority—of owners view pro/rel as financially beneficial. And where the majority of fans support it too.

        First: It breaks “MLS1” into more markets. For example, a lot of the Rhinos supporters who I knew in Rochester had no interest in MLS teams; some even refused interest based on principle. They followed USMNT, EPL, La Liga, etc., but no interest in MLS. Establish pro/rel and for many fans it’s suddenly okay to watch MLS games—in addition to supporting the Rhinos.

        Second: Would you rather watch your team humiliate Chivas (my sincere apologies if that is your team!) for the 12th time or play against some newly-promoted, scrappy underdog from…Albuquerque or Louisville or wherever? Interesting matches attract viewers.

        Third: Bottom-dwelling clubs typically don’t bring much money into the league. Conceivably, several “MLS2” clubs could be more profitable than some “MLS1” clubs. Why wouldn’t the top 20 “MLS1” owners want to vote for a pro/rel system that only endangered the bottom 4-8 (based on however many clubs MLS ends up with)?

        Anyway, like you, I don’t think this is going to happen anytime soon—I can’t even imagine it being seriously discussed within the next 15 years. After that, who knows?

      • Your point about finances is very poignant and relevant… but it isn’t up to MLS owners to agree to join a promotion/relegation system. They have no say at all. If US Soccer decides there will be promotion and relegation, there will be promotion and relegation. But US Soccer understands the first point… and won’t be making that decision. Maybe some day far into the future… when that first question can be answered with financial stability at least going 1 level down…

      • Can you point to rules/regulations that show that MLS owners have “no say” in the organization of their league?

      • That is simply false. If US Soccer decides tomorrow to set up a promotion/relegation system the people running the MLS would tell them they could do whatever they wanted with the leagues that they run but they had no standing to impose any such thing on MLS. And they would be right. US Soccer does not run MLS. MLS is run by a commissioner who is appointed by the team owners. Hell, if the commissioner starts making decisions that the owners don’t like they can simply fire him and hire someone else. And yet you propose that an outside entity with no real financial skin in the game and no real power at the league level could come in and impose a rule that would cost some owners millions of dollars and the team owners would have nothing at all they could do about it. That isn’t how it works.

        If US Soccer attempted to implement such a system against the wishes of the MLS team owners before too long there would be someone different running US Soccer. Someone who would cease in pursuing a policy that lots of people with a whole lot of money and with a lot of money at stake didn’t want.

  4. As a Louisville native I love this. Slugger field is a great venue. It’s right by the river and is a relitively easy walk from hotels downtown and restaurants. Although I kinda wish they were called River City fc, but that is just a personal preference. Will definitely be going to a lot of games in the future!

    • Pheel,

      Dont accept what.some guy in management calls it. Look at the Sounders, I cant even remember the dumb names thay came up with, but the fans decided no way…it was always and is always going to be our team…and called the Sounders.

      Get it changed, it is your team…

      • I mean I have absolutely no problem with is being LCFC. I’m just saying if they would have had a fan submission contest River city is what I would have submitted. Now if they didn’t have the fleur-de-lis on the badge, then I would be pretty upset. Since it is basically our city’s symbol.

      • I can see why they didn’t call it River City. If you’re not local, you’re not going to know where this team is from. According to the great Wiki, there are a quite a number of teams with the same nickname, including: Austin, Cincinnati, Columbus, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Omaha, Portland, Richmond, Sacramento, San Antonio, Sioux City, Spokane, St. Louis, Tulsa, and Wichita. Same with Derby City — doesn’t tell anyone outside of Kentucky and nearby states that they’re talking Louisville.

  5. Just put my money down for two season tickets. I’m thrilled that our (The Coopers) hard work is paying off!

  6. My main concern, which apparently no one else seems to have, is the condition of the field. Will they be playing soccer on a dirt infield and pitching mound? Will they try to replace it with sod each soccer match? Seems less than ideal regardless.

  7. I just heard on fox sports in Spanish, that tigres of ligaMX is and talking to robinho. That team is loaded with money, remember I told you MLS fans, ligaMX is trying to do MLS moves, like getting all their top markets in ligaMX, making new stadiums, remodeling stadiums, getting loaded owners, expanding, and planning a bid for World Cup 2026.
    Nobody believes me but ligaMX will just be watching everything that MLS does.
    So if robinho doesn’t go to ligaMX, why MLS. Will Orlando get him?

    • Good for Liga MX.

      I hope they figure out parity like MLS did. While MX is a fun league to follow, it is no MLS….. MLS is beyond exciting.

    • Cut myself off….how does any of that pertain to Louisville’s joy of getting a soccer team ?

  8. Good news for O’Connor, but sure hate to lose him. He kept our midfield together for most of the second half of the season last year and was going to be a good asset in management for our future.

    Good luck to him in Kentucky. Friendlies between OCSC and LCFC will be fun.

    • The truth is there really are no divisions, as there is not, nor will there ever be, pro/rel.

      But US soccer put desinations and standards on the divisions “creating” them.

      • There are most certainly divisions. And they were described as exactly what they are.

        Just like how the AHL is the second division of hockey in North America, down into OHL and WHL and it’s other brethren for the next step down. And AAA baseball is the second division of baseball, then AA, then A…

        Promotion and relegation isn’t a requirement to have an established pyramid/tier/division system.

  9. I repeat once again, we all know where MLS is expanding to, we don’t know what NASL and uslpro have in mind but will MLS ever think about an MLS 2 with 15 to 20 teams.
    For example is MLS expands to 26 to 28 teams, NASL can still have 20 teams and uslpro can reach 30 to 40 easily, giving that uslpro is division3 and is practically cheaper to run.
    Look at cosmos, San Antonio, Sacramento, Austin, okc, nc, Minnesota, Ottawa, Vegas, Tennessee, Detroit, Pittsburgh all wanting MLS, that’s 12 teams which could be an MLS 2 that’s if cosmos still love NASL. Did I forget other markets, Phoenix, Tampa bay, st.louis, Baltimore, San Diego.

    • If you’re ramping up a pro/rel debate, just stop. It’s not going to happen. The only thing that MLS2 would be is farm teams like in baseball. Maybe in 25-30 years when the league is entrenched in society can we have the pro/rel debate for real.

      • It’s still a fun hypothetical discussion. Pro/rel will probably not happen. It’s a bad business model. Even European clubs know this. But it’s fun to dream about an up-start club rising through the leagues and making it big.

      • My idea of pro/rel is unique and workable for all the haters and non believers, since MLS is a young league. Even some SBI commentators think is not that bad, for instance, if I was garber, I would stop expansion at 28, even conferences.
        Then reserve 2 SPOTS IN EACH CONFERENCE OR 1, depending how many team you want coming up and down, but no MLS team goes down!!!!!!!!
        So if you have 28 teams and reserve 4 spots, 2 in each conference , that would be a total of 32 teams.
        But 4 of those would be division 2, for example like NASL teams.
        So at the end of the season, the team from division 2 in their conference would go down and another would go up in that conference.
        That is why, MLS needs NASL to have and east /west conference and be on the same page, but that won’t happen and that is why MLS1 needs MLS2.
        Does any one have another idea?

      • Yes it can, my idea is perfect. It’s boring watching MLS with teams not taking the us open cup seriously, not wasting on dps, not caring about being the bottom team and waiting for MLS parity to save their life.
        Remember mls1 teams don’t go down

      • Your idea is not perfect. It’s insane. Stop posting about it. Selective promotion/relegation system? C’mon….

      • MLS isn’t going to allow anyone to play in MLS (1, 2, or whatever designation you want) without paying the current franchise fee–rumored to be around $100M today.

        It just won’t happen unless they pay the Garber.

      • What is even the point of this? This isn’t really pro/rel if it’s only two teams in each conference that are in danger of going down. Stupid idea.

      • Sorry… I don’t intend to be mean… but that is, without a doubt, the worst idea ever for promotion and relegation — and frankly, it’s in a league of its own for how awful it truly is, standing without competition. You’d run the risk of these teams finishing 1, 2, 3, 4 and having 2 of them relegated anyway? Even if they didn’t finish at the top… if they finished higher than the bottom 4 MLS teams, they’d get sent down still? Absolutely awful. And a quick way to cause bad blood, anger and resentment towards the system to ensure it gets cancelled and never thought of again.

    • Your arguments for pro/rel would carry more weight if you had addressed the problems I already delineated twice before. Instead, you ignored those problems and go on saying that your idea is perfect and unique.

    • I constantly hate how you always bring up San Antonio when both MLS Teams in Texas are never full.

      The FC Dallas stadium and name is a joke and Who was the genius that decided to build a S**T roof on the Houston Dynamo stadium?

      Fix those problems first, then worry about a #3rd team in Texas

  10. “although the Bats have agreed to allowing the stadium to be used for soccer the day after a baseball game”.

    Baseball teams play 3 or 4 game series with games on consecutive dates. How does this even matter lol?? Thats like your 5th grade teacher telling you to “take the summer off” on the last day of school. HAHAHA…

    • The Bats (AAA affiliate of the Reds) had tried to force the team to not play the day after a home stand for fear of damaging the field. Mostly, they were trying to play hardball.


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