Major League Soccer (MLS) arrives in Orlando on Tuesday Evening, several years earlier than anyone with Orlando City could have imagined.
The Colorado Rapids will be in town to face the Lions on Fifth Third Bank Field at the Citrus Bowl at 7:30pm in the 3rd Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament. While the match will not count towards either teams official league standings, the event will stand as a very important benchmark for team and league officials to see how the highest level of professional soccer in America will be received in Central Florida.
For those not familiar with the tournament, the US Open Cup is the oldest domestic soccer competition in the country celebrating its 100th year in 2013. Before MLS, NASL, or USL, the Cup offered the one true trophy for soccer clubs across the country to shoot for each season.
For 2013, home teams for each match were no longer decided bidding but rather by a simple coin flip. In the case of Orlando City, they won the right to host the 3rd Round match, a first for the club. In the two previous seasons the Lions went on the road to face MLS opponents, losing FC Dallas in 2011 and Sporting KC in 2012. The opportunity to host the match offers a distinct advantage to the club not just on the field but off as well.
For most MLS teams, the US Open Cup is more of a "courtesy" tournament. The league takes part in the matches mostly with their reserve players and usually at smaller venues, such as their practice facilities, due to typically low attendance. While everyone will be hoping for a victory, the attendance may end up being a bigger story from a national perspective.
For a weeknight match, where the team has less than 7 days to promote the event, an attendance number near Orlando's season average so far of 8,011 would be impressive. Furthermore, even a number short of 8,000 would still likely shatter any previous records for a US Open Cup 3rd Round match and send another signal to Don Garber and MLS that Orlando is indeed ready for an expansion franchise.
The forecast for Tuesday evening looks great with temperatures in the mid-70's and only a 20% chance of rain. Tickets will be available for purchase at the gate for as little as $15 or you can buy them in advance through Ticketmaster.