Twelve years after MLS dissolved the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny, commissioner Don Garber on Tuesday announced Orlando City Soccer Club will become its 21st franchise. Orlando will begin play in 2015, the same year previously announced expansion side New York City FC is entering the league.
The development had been a foregone conclusion since the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted last month to approve funds for the construction of a soccer stadium. Garber then made the official declaration Tuesday at a festive event in downtown Orlando.
"We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer," Garber said in a press release. "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 be the league's 11th expansion team since 2005, and MLS plans to have three more by 2020. Before moving to its new downtown stadium in the summer of 2015, Orlando City will play its home games at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Orlando Health, the club's sponsor since it began play in 2010 as a third-tier franchise in USL Pro, will be the team's jersey sponsor. And co-owner Flavio Augusto da Silva, a friend of Kaka who brought the Brazilian star to visit the club in June, teased the fans by saying he will fly to Europe this week to talk to a high-profile player about joining the team.
"The 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," co-owner Phil Rawlins said. "We have watched the evolution of Major League Soccer, and we are thrilled to join what has become one of the fastest growing and most exciting leagues in the world."