Monday, November 19, 2012

I-4 Derby: Orlando vs Tampa

"The Professor" in St. Pete getting
 the I-4 Derby started early
After years of trying from the front office and crying from thousands of supporters, Orlando City and Tampa Bay will finally face off this spring in what is being called the "I-4 Derby". The match will see the 2012 USLPRO regular season champions (Orlando) take on the 2012 NASL Champions (Tampa Bay) in what should be an excellent tune-up for both teams before their respective seasons.

The home-and-away pre-season series will take place in March with the matches separated by three weeks. The home leg will be at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday March 9th at 7:30pm with the away leg Al Lang Field in St. Pete on Saturday March 30th at 7:30pm.

I spoke with Orlando team officials this week and received confirmation that they are looking into a ticket and bus option for Lions fans looking to travel to St. Petersburg for the away match. Details are not finalized yet, but expect something in the next month or two. Orlando fans will also sit in a designated supporters section if they buy their tickets through the club or affiliated supporters group.

The series has been a long time coming, even back at the Supporter's Summit in January the question of an "I-4 Derby" was raised to team owner Phil Rawlins. At the time he said that Tampa had declined Orlando's offers because they were focusing on their move-up to NASL. It seems the pressure from supporters and the hard work of the front office staff has finally paid off in what will surely be a memorable series.

The "I-4 Derby" will be a regular series starting next season, but this might be the only time it will feature the Rowdies. The Tampa Flames are scheduled to join USL PRO next season becoming the Lions' closest rival and likely taking away some of the Rowdies market-share. While the Rowdies play in St. Petersburg the Flames will be playing at the JC Handley Sports Complex in Brandon, just south of the I-4/I-75 interchange place them just over 80 miles away from the Citrus Bowl.

And for those wondering about the series name, a "derby" be definition is a rivalry between two teams in close geographic proximity. The Manchester Derby (City v United), the North London Derby (Arsenal v Tottenham), and the Merseyside Derby (Liverpool v Everton) are just a few of the better known derbies in the English Premier League. Even though stadiums are 106 miles apart, they are the closest rivals in the country outside of Major League Soccer


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