National Women’s Soccer League adds team in Orlando
The National Women’s Soccer League on Tuesday announced its 10th team, the Orlando Pride.
The Pride, which will start playing next season, will be coached by former U.S. women’s national team coach Tom Sermanni. The team’s roster will be filled out in an expansion process in the coming weeks.
It is the NWSL’s second expansion team, following the addition of the Houston Dash in 2014. The Pride is owned by the same group that owns Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC.
The Pride and Orlando City SC will play in the Citrus Bowl for the start of the 2016 season, moving to a new 25,000-seat stadium once it’s completed during the summer.
"This is another step in the evolution of our league," NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
The NWSL, entering its fourth season, is the nation’s top women’s pro league, backed by the United States, Canadian and Mexican soccer federations.
The league was boosted by the U.S. victory in the Women’s World Cup this past summer. National team players are distributed throughout the league, with U.S. Soccer paying their salaries.
The league saw 18 sellouts following the World Cup with average attendance increasing by 29 percent. Overall, the NWSL set a new single-season attendance record with an average of 5,046 fans per game, and 454,100 fans in total attendance.
The NWSL also recently announced an extended sponsorship deal with Nike through 2019, lending credibility to the league. No other women’s professional soccer league in the United States has played into a fourth year.
The Orlando Pride joins two other NWSL teams that are run in conjunction with MLS teams: The Portland Thorns (Timbers) and the Houston Dash (Dynamo).
Orlando City Vice President Tim Holt said the club had been in discussions with the NWSL for the past year, part of an overall plan to add a women’s team. The World Cup victory pushed the process forward.
"We said that when the time was right we’d bring women’s soccer to The City Beautiful and to Central Florida," OCSC President Phil Rawlins said at a news conference announcing the team at Orlando’s Lake Eola. "The time is right. The time is now."
Sermanni, who coached the Australian women’s national team to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup in 2007 and 2011, went 17-2-4 as the U.S. coach from 2012-14.
"I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead, and particularly the challenge of getting out and trying to put a team together," Sermanni said.
The Pride join the Thorns, Dash, Seattle Reign, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Washington Spirit, Western New York Flash, Sky Blue FC and Boston Breakers.
Kansas City won the league championship for the second straight season earlier this month, a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Reign at Portland’s Providence Park.