Emergence Of New Investor Could Enhance Orlando's Push For An MLS Club
Although Orlando is a "healthy market for third-division soccer, the Florida city was in the back of the pack for an MLS team until an unlikely partnership put the Orlando City Lions on the radar" of MLS, according to Keyvan Antonio Heydari of the N.Y. TIMES. Brazilian businessman Flávio Augusto da Silva "arrived in town and decided he wanted in." He teamed with Orlando City Owner & President Phil Rawlins, who had been "building a fan base and an MLS dream" in Orlando, to give the city "the missing ingredients for a run at MLS." Rawlins said, "The Southeast is a big opportunity. The league has made it very clear (it wants) two teams in the Southeast." He added, "We’d been looking for the ideal partner for that journey; we feel like we’ve found that with Flavio. The franchise is going to take very deep pockets. (He's) a great partner, big passion for the game." Augusto da Silva said his stake in the club "depends on the numbers," but it "will be majority interest, between 60-to-80 percent." Augusto da Silva’s partner, Octagon Brazil President Alexandre Leitão, was "looking closely at Miami, Orlando and Atlanta, but advised Augusto to focus on Orlando." Rawlins said that 1.5 million Brazilians "pass through the city’s international airport each year." He said, "The audience is perfect for MLS. We have a very young population, a soccer-hungry population. We’re configured as a small MLS club. We’ve got over 20 employees. We have youth divisions." Orlando City hopes to "play its first official MLS match in 2015." However, there are "a list of hurdles." The city "must approve a plan for [a] new stadium, which is budgeted at $95 million, without calculating the value of the land." Moreover, Orlando would have to "pay a franchise fee to the league." Augusto da Silva said, "I have not yet met with [MLS Commissioner Don] Garber, but he indicated that as soon as we have financial commitment to a stadium, the league would be ready to give us the franchise" (NYTIMES.com, 3/28).