On Tuesday, November 19, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that Orlando SC will become the 21st Franchise beginning with the 2015 Season. Orlando SC currently competes in the USL Pro Division, which is on the third tier of the United States Soccer Pyramid. This will be the first team in the state of Florida since 2001, when both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion.
It is worth noting that both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion folded after the 2001 season due to financial issues. At the time for MLS, financial woes were rampant throughout the league. This Forbes article by Chris Smith does an excellent job illustrating the early problems for MLS. Also in the article, he talks about the current value of each MLS team as well as providing a chart to show the profitability of each team.
In my opinion, the main concern for any new franchise in the Southeastern United States is the competition it will face. The Southeast is football crazy and is treated like a religion down there. That does not mean Orlando SC will fail, but it will take time for them to get near the backing of some recent MLS Expansion teams (e.g.: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver).
Another concern is the complete lack of any other regional teams. Orlando SC’s nearest competitor will be the Houston Dynamo to the west and DC United to the North. Orlando to Houston is approximately 963 miles according to Google, while Orlando to Washington D.C. is approximately 847 miles per Google. The lack of regional competition may hamper the ability for Orlando SC to flourish. This could be less of an issue if the rumored Miami Franchise comes to fruition.
One further thought on the lack of regional competition is noted by the fierce rivalries that have developed between Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. These three franchises have thrived due in part to the Cascadia Cup that they contest each year. Do not discount the lack of a regional rival as an obstacle.
One final note, with Orlando SC becoming the 21st team it will almost certainly mean another unbalanced schedule in 2015. Adding another team will alleviate this problem, but at this time, it appears that will not happen until 2016 at the earliest.
Overall I think the addition of Orlando SC will help MLS in the long run, but there are some issues they will have to contend with early on. If Orlando SC can build a passionate and devoted fan base as well as be competitive within the football crazy South, they will be just fine.