- 2015 is their first-ever season in MLS
- Formed in 2010: USL PRO regular season champs in 2011, 2012, 2013
- New downtown stadium will be ready for 2016 MLS season
Key Player: Kaka
The Brazilian legend has been named as Orlando’s captain for the 2015 season, and the former Real Madrid and AC Milan superstar has been ripping it up in preseason with stunning goals like this. Kaka is the highest earner in MLS with a salary of $7.1 million and the Brazilian international will capture the minds of the vast Brazilian population in the Orlando area.
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Majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva is close friends with Kaka, and if the 32-year-old attacking midfielder can get anywhere near the form he displayed at AC Milan in his prime, he will dominate matches in MLS. With Brek Shea on one wing and a whole host of talented young strikers in front of him, Kaka seems like the perfect face of this franchise.
Other names to watch: Brek Shea, Donovan Ricketts, Cyle Larin, Eric Avila
The soccer culture is growing in Orlando, as over 60,000 tickets have been sold for the season-opener vs. NYCFC at the Citrus Bowl. Above was the reception the team got after they returned home to Orlando airport following a preseason tournament. Wow.
Manager: Adrian Heath
After taking the team from Austin, Texas to Orlando in 2010 with Club President Phil Rawlins, Heath has been a huge reason why Orlando gained entry to MLS in 2015. He has built an extremely talented squad in the USL and has used all his connections from his illustrious playing career with the likes of Everton and Stoke to kick OCSC onto the next level as they are just days away from their first game in MLS. Several MLS clubs have reportedly tried to pry Heath away from Orlando, most notably Toronto FC, but he has remained to see this project through. When his side line up against New York City FC this weekend, five years of hard work to get into MLS will have been accomplished. Heath deserves all the credit he gets, and with Kaka, Shea and several MLS veterans, he has built a deep squad.
Outlook for 2015
Getting into the playoffs will be a huge achievement for Orlando in their inaugural season. Their success will hinge around Kaka and if he can stay fit and deliver assists and goals, then they may well surprise plenty of people. With a vibrant, young fanbase in Central Florida and an owner committed to investing in top talent, the Eastern Conference just got a whole lot tougher with Orlando entering the fray. Any expansion franchise will want to have a good showing in year one, but expect Orlando to surprise plenty of people around MLS in 2015.