The Major League Soccer season is officially here!
Game day is just a few days away and feelings of intensity and uncertainty were at an all-time high earlier this week.
Collective Bargaining Agreement Update:
With the struggle of the MLS and the players union to devise a new collective bargaining agreement, soccer teams and fans wondered if the season would start on time. At a press conference on Wednesday, President and Founder of the Orlando City Soccer Club Phil Rawlins spoke about how he sincerely believed a deal would get done.
"I would look at it from a different point of view. We're here, Flavio, myself, the team…is here for generations to come. This is not about a weekend or a week or a month, it's about uh the future of the game and this country and where this game is going and um, where the great city of Orlando is going with, with this franchise. Um, I think when we look back on this in 20 or 30 years time, people will forget this, you know, we'll, we'll forget that there was ever a CBA negotiation going on this week," said Rawlins.
Within hours of the press conference, an announcement of the MLS and the players union striking a deal became a reality. OCSC posted a video saying "Game On!" and as if it was possible, even more excitement flooded through Orlando and the rest of the world.
Operation #FillTheBowl Update:
The inaugural game for our Lions is on Sunday, March 8 in the Citrus Bowl at five p.m., where the team will face New York City Football Club. Stakes are even higher for this game due to a completely sold out venue, which completed the OCSC Operation #FillTheBowl about a week before the match; and a one to one tie against NYCFC in a preseason friendly back in late February.
New Partners Update:
Many announcements were made at the press conference on Wednesday, including a new founding partner the world recognizes very well. The mouse partners with the Lions! Walt Disney World Senior Vice President of Downtown Disney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Maribeth Bisienere says how excited the company is for this partnership.
"We at Disney are absolutely thrilled to be a part of this crazy soccer fever that has now taken ahold of central Florida," said Disienere. "It's, it's a great partnership for us for a number of different reasons, uh, to be a part of what's happening here and to help them launch this great franchise."
Bisienere said it was also a great opportunity to work together to advance key travel markets in Brazil and Latin America for those in central Florida. She also touched on the youth soccer sports program at the Wide World of Sports and how there is a plan in the works to make advancements with OCSC, although she doesn't know what it's going to look like just yet.
On Thursday, Publix Super Markets also partnered with the club.
"Through this partnership, Publix will support Orlando City youth soccer camps, clinics and mobile fan zone. They will also be the presenting sponsor of the Mane Street Fan Zone presented by Publix for home games," according to an OCSC email.
Inaugural Game Ticket Update:
In less than 24 hours, these 2,000 tickets sold out and now an expected 62,000 supporters will be at the Lions' home opener. According to the MLS website, this attendance will be the ninth largest in the history of the major league.
With Orlando constantly referred to as the "Soccer Capital of the South," downtown Orlando will officially be painted purple on Sunday as fans unite and cheer on their Lions.
Knightly News will bring you highlights of the game, so check here for updates.
Story, photos and video by Nicole LaBosco.