Orlando City Soccer Club president Phil Rawlins talked the talk when he introduced the team to Central Florida.
“The investors and owners believe it has the potential to be a major league soccer marketplace in the not too distant future. Major League Soccer is very much in our sights.”
Rawlins and his staff could have trumpeted demographics and economic impact numbers till they were blue in the face, but to make their dream a reality they had to prove Orlando’s worth and legitimacy as a “soccer-town” with results.
Nothing puts butts in seats like winning. Rawlins knows that and put Adrian Heath in charge of the on-field product. Rawlins is an extremely successful businessman who has likely made many important decisions throughout his career, but hiring Heath may have been the best decision he ever made. Heath led the Lions to a USL-Pro championship in their first year of existence. The domination has continued each of the past two years and the Orlando City attendance numbers have grown along with it.
Orlando City has consistently been at the top of USL-Pro in attendance and the top soccer-draw in America outside of Major League Soccer. Armed with those staggering statistics, Rawlins caught the eye of the MLS and public officials. The funding structure for a soccer-specific stadium in downtown Orlando was finalized last month, paving the way for the Lions jump to Major League Soccer.
Today, Orlando City will be named as the 21st MLS franchise and Phil Rawlins walks the walk.