Photo by Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
By MIKE GRAMAJO
ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City SC may be in their first year in Major League Soccer, but that isn’t stopping them from looking to expand in a major way.
Orlando City confirmed interest in acquiring a franchise in the National Women’s Soccer League, according to club president Phil Rawlins. No specific timeframe was given.
“We made no secret of the fact that we’d like to bring a women’s professional team here,” Rawlins told reporters on Monday. “We continue to have dialogue with NWSL, we’ve not taken that to a point where we can make any announcements on it, but we certainly declared our interest at something we would be interested in.
“If we look at the market place of soccer in Orlando, it’s proven to be an incredible positive market for the sport, and that’s all types of sports. Not only the men’s, youth and women’s soccer. It’s something we expect to do in the near future.”
The NWSL interest comes after Orlando City announced they will be hosting the United States Women’s National Team on October 25 when they take on Brazil at the Citrus Bowl. The Lions are currently averaging 32,973 fans in their first 13 games at home, and, according to Rawlins, that played a role in deciding to spark interest in an NWSL team in Orlando.
UCF Women’s soccer head coach Tiffany Sahaydak, who played in the 1999 USWNT World Cup winning squad, praised Orlando City’s interest in getting involved with the women’s top-level of professional soccer. Sahaydak added it’s great for young women who play high school and collegiate level in Florida and have the option to play professionally locally.
“Selfishly to have a women’s pro team here and just have that in our backyard that’s a great recruiting tool,” said Sahaydak. “We have a handful of players that want to play at the next level, we have international players that play on their national teams. Selfishly, it’s great for UCF women’s soccer, but on a personal level, I care about this sport bigger than just my recruiting. I do think if we can do that [NWSL team in Orlando].”
When Rawlins was asked whether the team will wait for its downtown soccer stadium to completed before officially announcing an NWSL team in central Florida, the former Stoke City director said there isn’t a timeframe on when the announcement will come and dialogue with the NWSL is still premature.
“We continue to have very positive dialogue,” added Rawlins. “I wouldn’t put a time stamp on it at this point because it would be premature, but it’s very much in our intentions and our plans.”
OCSC announced earlier this summer plans to own and operate their own USL team, cutting ties with its lower-tier affiliate Louisville City FC at the end of the 2015 season. Specifics on their USL team have not been revealed, but are expected to see action in 2016.
What do you think of a potential NWSL franchise in Orlando? What other markets would be good for the league to expand to?
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