Major League Soccer has named the Orlando City Soccer Club as its 21st franchise. The team will make its debut in 2015, which will be the league’s 20th season.
The team, which has competed for three years in the USL PRO league after moving from Austin, Texas, will play its 2014 season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. In 2015, the team will begin MLS play at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium before moving into a new 18,000-seat soccer stadium in downtown Orlando expected to be complete later that summer. Construction for the new stadium is scheduled to begin in spring 2014.
“We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “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. We have great confidence in Flávio Augusto da Silva, Phil Rawlins and the rest of the Orlando City ownership group. They love this sport, our league and this city. And thanks to the commitment of ownership, the city of Orlando and Orange County, Orlando City will soon have a spectacular new stadium that will provide fans and the entire community with a truly unique downtown sporting experience.”
Originally from the United Kingdom and a part-owner of English Premier League club Stoke City, Rawlins founded and developed a successful information technology sales and marketing consulting company. He founded the Austin Aztex in 2007, before moving the team to Orlando in late 2010.
“It is a dream come true to bring Major League Soccer to Orlando,” Rawlins said in a statement. “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. 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.”