There hasn’t been this kind of buzz for soccer since the 1994 World Cup matches in Orlando. Except this time it will have a larger economic impact.
When the Orange County Board of Commissioners approved funds for a new downtown, multipurpose soccer stadium, fans let out a collective sigh of relief while officials entered final negotiations with Major League Soccer to bring a franchise to Orlando.
The vote approved the use of Tourist Development Tax funds for multiple venues, including a soccer stadium. If a franchise is awarded as expected——the Orlando City Lions would begin MLS play in spring 2015. The team has been playing in the United Soccer Leagues, a level lower than MLS. Orlando would be the 21st MLS team.
“Our stated goal has always been 2015, and we’ve always shared that with MLS,” says Orlando City President Phil Rawlins. “They’re very aware of our goals — a vision of bringing the league here in ’15. We’ll stick to that, it’s what we want to do. The timing is right.”
The economic impact: A new MLS franchise in Orlando would generate nearly $1.2 billion in new direct spending over the next 30 years, according to city of Orlando data.