Orlando will have its very own Major League Soccer team come the 2015 season. This really isn't too big of news as the rumor has been floating around that this would happen sooner rather than later, especially with the city approving public funding for a new stadium, but the announcement tonight in Orlando made it official.
"We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a league 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."
Orlando City will join MLS in its 20th season as the league's 21st team and, according to a league release, will become the first team in league-history to have a signature purple kit.
Previously the Austin Aztecs, Orlando City moved from Austin, Texas to Orlando in 2010, three years after being founded, and have won the USL Pro, which is recognized as America's third-tier soccer league behind MLS and NASL, regular season in 2011 and 2012 and won the league's postseason championship this year.
The team is owned by an ownership group headed by Flávio Augusto da Silva, a native of Brazil, and includes club founder and managing partner Phil Rawlins, who is originally from the United Kingdom and is part-owner of English Premier League club Stoke City, chairman John Bonner and 10 local partners.
"Orlando is a special city with amazing fans that have embraced the beautiful game and we have no doubt that Orlando City will become the next success story in MLS," da Silva said in a statement. "We would like to thank MLS leadership for working with us and helping us bring Major League Soccer to Central Florida.
"Our goal is to continue the championship-winning ways this organization has established and to further the special relationship that this club has with its fans and the city of Orlando."
Next up for Orlando: Brazilian attacking-midfielder Kaka, probably (in da Silva's dreams).
Major League Soccer has enjoyed plenty of expansion in recent years. The teams in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland have put down a strong foundation for growing the league and MLS will hope that next season's expansion team, New York FC, which has ties to both Manchester City and the New York Yankees, and Orlando FC will continue that upward trend in strong markets.
The official announcement comes at a good time for professional soccer in Florida as rumors of David Beckham looking to start a team in Miami (again!) have surfaced repeatedly in recent weeks. Reports have come out that Beckham has even reached out to Miami Heat forward/MVP/basketball king LeBron James about owning a chunk of the team — James has a five percent stake in Premier League club Liverpool.