Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Orlando City SC was named Major League Soccer's 21st franchise on Tuesday night.
Buoyed by several years of success at the minor league level, a growing fan base and stadium deal already in place, MLS commissioner Don Garber and principal club owners Flavio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins made the announcement official at a press conference in front of a sea of fans.
"We are proud and excited to welcome Orlando to Major League Soccer," 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.
"We have great confidence in Flavio Augusto da Silva, Phil Rawlins and the rest of the Orlando City ownership group," Garber added. "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."
The club has had its eyes on expansion since 2010 having moved from Austin, Texas, three years ago with full knowledge that Orlando is one of the fastest growing markets in the US. They also backed up the strong demographics with equally impressive play in the USL-Pro, earning the regular-season title in 2011 and 2012 and surging to the league's postseason crown in 2013.
Da Silva, a native of Brazil, leads Orlando City's ownership group, which includes club founder and managing partner Rawlins, chairman John Bonner and 10 local partners.
Originally from the United Kingdom and a part owner of English Premier League club Stoke City, Rawlins founded and developed a highly successful information technology sales and marketing consulting company. He founded the Austin Aztex in 2007, before moving the team to Orlando in late 2010.
"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."
"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."
Orlando City will join the league in 2015 along with New York City FC, marking the fourth time the league has added two clubs in one year. In 1998, the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion joined. In 2005, Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA came into the league. And the last time was in 2011, when the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps made the jump from the lower divisions up to MLS.