New Orlando City Soccer study shows big potential for MLS franchise

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ORLANDO, Fla. - WFTV was at a news conference held Tuesday by the Orlando City Soccer Club to announce the results of its study on bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to Orlando.

Officials with the Orlando City Soccer Club have said Orlando could land a Major League Soccer franchise could if a multipurpose soccer stadium was built.

A new economic impact study says a Major League Soccer franchise in Orlando would have a $1.2 billion economic impact over 30 years.

But MLS officials said a franchise will only be successful if the team plays in a soccer stadium and not in an American football stadium like the Citrus Bowl.

A multipurpose soccer stadium in Orlando would run about $100 million, and it is the price Major League Soccer officials said must be paid in order to capture a major league team.

"It's an opportunity that will not last forever. It certainly has a time stamp on it," said Phil Rawlins, president of Orlando City Soccer Club.

The Orlando City Soccer Club has already won two regular season titles and has had serious discussions with MLS about becoming the league's 20th franchise.

The soccer club is looking for support from Orlando and Orange County to build the soccer-specific stadium.

Rawlins said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs are excited about the projected economic impact. They have not given any commitment yet, but they have not ruled out providing public funding.

"Really we are at the stage now where we have to figure out what each of us can bring to the table," said Rawlins.

Even though the Citrus Bowl is getting $175 million worth of renovations, Rawlins said it won't be enough for MLS officials who want a smaller, soccer-specific stadium where fans are close to the field and there is a roof over the fans to shelter them from the sun and rain.

"Unlike any other game in this country, the fans are part of the experience of the game. They are part of the excitement and power of soccer; we've got to give them an environment where they can excel," said Rawlins.

Dyer's office told WFTV he is willing to work with the team. And Jacobs just toured a stadium in Philadelphia this weekend. Her office said she's still gathering facts.