Orlando City SC has cleared a major hurdle toward gaining entry to MLS. The mayors of Orange County and Orlando have agreed to the framework on a funding plan that would clear the path for a new soccer-specific stadium in downtown Orlando, largely seen as the only thing standing in the way of MLS returning to Florida.
The funding plan calls for the bulk of the proposed $85 million stadium to be funding through various taxes and bonds from the city and county. The owners of Orlando City SC, which joined the USL-Pro in 2011, have committed to putting in $30 million of their own money toward the stadium, as well as agreeing to pay what is believed to be a $70 million expansion fee. Orlando City is averaging nearly 8,000 fans per game this season, easily the most of any lower-division soccer team.
Although the plan has yet to be given final approval, gaining the support of Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs has been the major hold up until now. Her office told the Orlando Sentinel that the latest plan is a "win-win for all the partners involved."
Assuming everything goes as planned from here on out, Orlando City could join MLS as soon as the 2015 season. That's the same year that New York City FC is slated to become MLS team No. 20. Orlando City, which is partially owned by Brazilian businessman Flavio Augusto da Silva, has already promised to sign Kaka if they can join the league by 2015.
Orlando City would fill a longtime gap in MLS's regional coverage, as the league pulled out of Florida following the 2001 season when the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny were both contracted.