Melbourne could get soccer team with Orlando City Soccer League ties
MELBOURNE, Fla. – Melbourne is a finalist to become the home of a new professional United Soccer League team that will begin playing in 2016, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.
Jeff Carr, Eastern Florida State College's associate vice president of athletics, said a decision could be announced within days on whether the college's Melbourne soccer complex will be the home for the new team. Deland is among the other finalists, he said.
The United Soccer League team would be affiliated with the Orlando City Soccer Club, which is in its first season in the 20-team Major Soccer League, the top-level professional soccer league in the United States and Canada. The United Soccer League is one rung below that.
If Melbourne is selected, 14 home games of the new USL team would be held at EFSC field from March through September, with the potential for playoff games in October if the team qualifies. In addition, Orlando City would hold two to four preseason MLS games there in February, as well as potentially several exhibitions against international teams.
"It's an exciting opportunity," said Carr, who also is EFSC's women's soccer coach. "It's a really big deal."
Officials of Orlando City "think Brevard County is a hotbed for soccer," based on sales of Orlando City season ticket packages to Brevard residents, Carr said in a presentation to the Brevard County Tourist Development Council's Sports Commission.
Space Coast Sports Promotions President Rusty Buchanan said the EFSC facility is "one of the nicest soccer pitches in the state of Florida."
Carr said the EFSC Titan Soccer Complex has the needed main and practice fields, locker rooms, training facilities, television facilities, press box and scoreboard to meet United Soccer League requirements.
What it lacks are seating and bathroom facilities. The EFSC complex main field has seating for 1,500, and would need to add 2,100 temporary seats to meet the USL's 3,600-seat requirements, Carr said. That requirement will increase to 5,000 in 2017.
Tourism officials will work with Carr and Orlando City officials to help make pro soccer in Melbourne become a reality. One way could be to tap into Brevard County's 5 percent hotel room tax to help pay for the upgrades or for marketing the area to out-of-town soccer fans, according to Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Eric Garvey.
"It's an opportunity to get our message out to the other markets," Garvey said, as well as attract tourist to local hotels from among soccer fans. The United Soccer League teams and staffs also would rent rooms at local hotels.
The United Soccer League currently has 24 teams in the United States and Canada, and the Orlando City-affiliated team would be one of four expansion teams. The still-unnamed team would be the only USL team based in Florida.
Carr said Orlando City management wants its United Soccer League team to be within a 70-minute ride from Orlando, so the two teams can train together.
Carr said Orlando City "has a very loyal fan base," many of whom also would attend games of the affiliated United Soccer League team.
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