SBD/October 16, 2013/Franchises

Rawlins Hopeful Orlando City Has MLS Expansion Deal By Late November

Rawlins believes the Southeast can support two MLS expansion teams
Orlando City Soccer Club Owner & President Phil Rawlins said if the team clears the final hurdle next week toward having its new stadium plan approved, then "by the end of November, we'd hope to have an MLS announcement in Orlando that we'll be joining" the league, according to Paul Tenorio of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The Orlando City Council this month unanimously approved a $20M plan to provide tourist taxes for the stadium, and the deal now just needs to be approved by the Orange County Commission. Rawlins said, "Our plan is to play in 2015, so that gives about 16 months to get prepared. And first kick for MLS would be March of 2015." He said of the potential transition from the USL to MLS, "The club is organized very much along the lines of a small Major League (Soccer) club today. All the departments are already in place, it's not like we're creating whole new parts to the organization. ... So we'd go from approximately just over 20 employees to somewhere around 60 full-time employees. So 40-plus new jobs created across those departments." Rawlins said of the team's name, "The name will stay the same. ... We're not going to go away from Lions and go to Giraffes or something, we'll still be the Lions, but the logo itself will change because that becomes a trademark, copyright of Major League Soccer." He said of potential MLS expansion, "I don't see it being a four-team expansion in 2015. I think the likelihood is it'll be us and New York in '15 and then three more expansion franchises to go before the end of the decade." Rawlins said of MLS adding a team to the Southeast, "We'd love to see a regional rival. Whether that's Miami or Atlanta, I'm completely open to. There is plenty of room in the Southeast for two teams" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/13).
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