Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Orlando City Supporters Summit Recap

2012 Umbro Home Kit
Courtesy of Orlando City SC
It seemed like only days ago that Orlando City announced the arrival of professional soccer to the City Beautiful and only days ago that same club lifted the USL PRO trophy. In actuality it has been almost 5 months since the team win the championship at the Citrus Bowl, but never to rest on their accomplishments the franchise has been hard at work in the off season. This became even more apparent to the hundreds of fans that packed into the Mojo Bar and Grill in downtown Orlando tonight for City's first annual Supporters Summit. The legends of Lions faithful rub elbows with the front office staff, players, and coaches in a spectacle that is atypical of the USL PRO level teams and unusual even for those in MLS.

The festivities started a bit late due to the larger than expected crowds and some of that classic downtown Orlando rush hour traffic keeping people from arriving on time. No worries, the additional half hour allowed for the atmosphere to building from legions of followers of The Ruckus and the Iron Lion Firm as well as other supporter groups. After priming the crowd with a fantastic team-produced video package, the franchise faces took the stage, that being Phil Rawlins, Adrien Heath, and Alex Wolf.

The presentation began with some updates on the franchise from Mr. Rawlins:
1)   Orlando City had the largest attendance of any professional soccer team in the US outside of MLS
2)   Orlando Health is back for the second year as kit and title sponsor
3)   Season ticket sales (so far) are up 188% over last season

Then there was talk about some player updates; most of the team from last season will be back with a few exceptions. Most notably, Lawrence Olum and Yordany Alvarez have moved on to MLS to Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake, respectively. Additionally, a name familiar to soccer fans the world over is joining the team... Rooney! No, not Wayne (thank God). It is John Rooney, Wayne's brother, who played with the New York Red Bulls last season. Don't think of this as a "John Stamos' Brother" situation, John can play and hopefully being in the USL PRO will get him more playing time than he saw last season with NYRB.

The talk quickly shifted from the past and present to the future and MLS. As mentioned in our previous interview with Phil Rawlins, MLS commissioner Don Garber is scheduled to be in town for the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, and more details were released. Garber will be in town on Thursday March 1st to attend the Toronto FC v FC Dallas match (6pm) and the Orlando City v BK Hacken (8pm). In addition, there will be a town hall meeting with Garber where the supporters will be able to come out and show their support for MLS in Orlando. Although the club hasn't announced the time and location yet, you can expect it to be in the afternoon or early evening most likely do the match times. Mr. Rawlins and the rest of the speakers couldn't stress enough the importance of having a strong showing at the town hall meeting and the March 1st matches. I can tell you from covering MLS for the last 2 years these meetings are more than just important. Last year Garber had a meeting with the Miami Ultras, a supporters group that was pushing for MLS in south Florida. Although it was a great press event for both sides the real story was the poor turn-out of supporters, less than 100 to the meeting. Now how much do you hear about the Miami Ultras? Exactly, as Mr. Rawlins stressed in his interview with his a few weeks ago, the most important thing fans can do to get MLS in Orlando is to show up in big numbers on March 1st. We will have more details and information the the town hall meeting once we get that from the team. In the meantime, if you don't have tickets to the March 1st matches you can click here for the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.

The presentation was followed by a Question and Answer period from those in attendance. With the recent merger with Florida Soccer Alliance, Orlando City has a complete "franchise pyramid" starting at the U5 level all the way up to the USL PRO team. The franchise will be practicing and training at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Lake Mary and encouraged fans to come out to those events to see and support the team. There were questions about whether or not the Tampa Rowdies (NASL) or FC Dallas (MLS) would be making special "re-match" trips to play Orlando. The Rowdies have declined the offer, focusing more on their move up to NASL this season. FC Dallas, who knocked Orlando out of the US Open Cup last season, will be playing City at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic on February 28th and revenge was in the air. The question of international friendlies for the summer came up and the team said they were in discussions with 6 European squads without giving specifics. With the Olympics and Euro 2012 going on, the teams may be a bit watered down, but still the chance to see City go up against some of the best professional teams in the world is a treat that all should attend.

The night wrapped up with the unveiling of the 2012 home and away kits for City. The home kit is all purple (see picture above) and the away kit is red with white socks (similar to last year's home kit). So why go with purple? The simple answer is branding and trying to stand out from other USL PRO and MLS teams. Although red is widely used, purple is a color that has not seen wide spread use by teams, so Orlando is making it their own. For those lucky enough to attend the event, they had the first opportunity to buy the jerseys at the end of the night.

It was an outstanding night to be an Orlando City supporter and a great opportunity for the franchise to proactively approach their fan base with input and feedback. The one theme that was consistent throughout the night was that the team is only as strong as its supporters. From the look of things the entire City franchise and fan base is alive and well in Orlando. Take note Mr. Garber! 

1 comment :

  1. purple is a color that hasn't seen wide use* typo. Great article!


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