Sporting Kansas City could soon see its affiliate club, Orlando City SC, alongside them in Major League Soccer.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday
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. The planned $84 million stadium will hold 18,000. A $20 million tourist tax will pay for the county's share.
The USL-Pro (the third-tier of North American soccer) club will now enter into final negotiations with MLS officials to become the league's 21st team. The league announced earlier this year that New York City FC -- backed by Manchester City and the New York Yankees -- will join the league in 2015.
The Tuesday deal doesn't guarantee an expansion spot for the Lions, but the Orlando Sentinel reported on Monday that league would move "quickly" to begin the expansion process.
The club's owners were already celebrating as if a deal was done on Tuesday night.
"The [MLS] ownership group has signed off on it," soccer club president
Phil Rawlins told the Sentinel
. "We're looking at a four- to six-week window to get the documentation finished up, to get a franchise agreement finalized and for an announcement to be made."
The Sentinel describes the raucous crowd of 200 supporters chanting "We are going to MLS!"
After the vote, MLS president and deputy commissioner
Mark Abbott told MLSsoccer.com
: "We look forward to working with the Orlando City SC ownership group to finalize an expansion agreement.”
During the MLS All-Star Game at Sporting Park this summer, MLS commissioner Don Garber declared that the league would expand to 24 teams by 2020.
The next candidates could also come from the South -- a region that's been under-represented in the league since the Mutiny folded in 2002. Atlanta and a David Beckham-backed Miami group are thought to be among the front-runners. Minneapolis, Detroit and Sacramento have been rumored as potential targets as well.
If Orlando joins New York in 2015, the league will have added 11 teams since 2004. An impressive amount of growth for a league that once had the majority of its teams owned by two men, Lamar Hunt and Phil Anschutz.
Sporting KC and Orlando City entered into a two-year agreement earlier this year, which allowed Kansas City to loan players (such as Dom Dwyer, Jon Kempin, C.J. Sapong and Christian Duke) to Orlando. Dwyer was the leading scorer in USL-Pro this season with 15 goals in just 13 games. (He scored four goals in the USL-Pro championship game!) Two of Kansas City's current players, Lawrence Olum and Mechack Jerome, played previously for Orlando. The ownership groups for both clubs have developed a close relationship as Orlando works toward joining the league.
Orlando City also beat Kansas City this year at Sporting Park in the U.S. Open Cup. Something Kansas City might get a little revenge for in 2015.