An attendance of 10,697 wouldn’t make many headlines in Major League Soccer, but for one club hopeful of becoming a franchise, it’s big news. Orlando City SC broke its attendance record on Sunday, when the club hosted the Seattle Sounders FC reserves.
On the field, the Lions defeated Seattle 2-0, jumping out to a lead in the first minute on a Kevin Molino goal and scoring its second in the 30th through Rob Valentino. Orlando City sits tied for first place in USL Pro with the Richmond Kickers, with 51 points out of 24 games.
Last week, Orlando had a breakthrough on its bid to build a soccer-specific stadium downtown, sparking talk of MLS expansion again. MLS commissioner Don Garber announced at halftime of the All-Star Game that the league wants to expand by four more teams by the turn of the decade.
Setting a new attendance record is one way of ensuring Central Florida stays in the conversation regarding possible expansion sites.
If Orlando were already in the league, an average attendance of 10,000 would make the wrong kind of headlines, as it would be the second lowest number in the league in 2013 and dead last in 2012. But in USL Pro, generally considered the third tier of American soccer, it’s impressive.
The Lions hosted the best-attended game of 2012, when 8,932 people walked through the gate for a game on Aug. 17, and 2011, which saw 7,933 fans at their game against FC New York on April 9.
It’s not Sounders-home-game quality. But it’s around the same number the San Antonio Scorpions and New York Cosmos draw in the new North American Soccer League a step above.
More than anything, it proves Orlando’s potential as an MLS market, on par with any other in the nation.