By Josh Brokaw
Orlando City has broken through the fourth round of the US Open Cup after defeating their MLS affiliate Sporting KC. The team in purple go up against the Chicago Fire in the next round. It is a match-up that Orlando has a real chance of winning. With the way the team has been performing it isn’t hard to imagine them going all the way in the tournament this year. They would be the first USL PRO team to win the cup since 1999 when the Rochester Rhinos defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-0. All of this got me thinking about what winning this competition could do for Orlando’s chances of getting into the MLS.
If you look at how things went for the Rochester Rhinos when they won the cup back in 1999 you see a story that is anything but encouraging. The Rhinos were on the fast track to becoming a MLS franchise back then. They had a great team, a stadium, and a fan base to fill that stadium. Despite all of that they didn’t get into the MLS because they lacked one thing. They lacked national appeal. They just weren’t a sexy addition to the MLS. It didn’t matter that they defeated 4 MLS teams in the Open Cup to become the champions in 1999.
Many people think that this is the same problem with Orlando City. It isn’t hard to see parallels between 2013 and 1999. After all, Orlando just got passed up by the MLS for a much more ‘sexy’ New York franchise backed by Manchester City and the New York Yankees. Is there really any reason to believe that the MLS will suddenly take notice if Orlando defies the odds and wins the US Open Cup? Probably not.
So no, winning the US Open Cup isn’t going to suddenly make Orlando’s stock skyrocket with the MLS, but what it could do is make the team much more loved by the city itself. This is something that the team needs badly. They don’t get much play in the local media outlets despite being one of only two professional sports teams in the city. Perhaps by winning the cup people of the city will see the potential. The team has been trying to get funding for a stadium passed without much luck but a new reduced stadium proposal appears to be gaining traction with the local government. if the team keeps doing well against MLS teams then the city might feel more at ease with the thought of spending the money they need to build a stadium downtown.
Once the team is able to secure a soccer specific stadium it will be very hard for the MLS to turn Orlando down. The rumors are already flying that they will get announced as the next MLS franchise as soon as late July this year. There is really only one thing holding me back from believing the team will be the 21st MLS expansion. That one thing is David Beckham.
David Beckham has a deal with the MLS that he can bring in a new team for a very reduced franchise fee. All signs point to him wanting to start a team in Miami Florida. Will the MLS really want to bring in two teams in Florida? After all there already were two Florida teams in the MLS and both of them folded in 2001.
There is one problem with looking at the past to figure out how things will unfold in the future. A lot has changed since 1999 when Rochester hoisted up the Open Cup. Sure it didn’t bring them any luck with getting into the MLS but that doesn’t mean it won’t help Orlando.
Maybe the US Open Cup won’t propel the team into the MLS but it will help give the team more respect and help bring in more fans to the stadium. I have very little doubt Orlando will be an MLS team in the near future. I’m just not sure if it will be the 21st team or the 22nd.