Earlier this month Forbes Mexico released a list of the 30 most valuable soccer clubs in North and South America. With only six MLS teams represented (New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Montreal Impact, Columbus Crew), there is certainly room for clubs to increase their ambition and become dominant figures in the Western Hemisphere.
According the report, Forbes observed the following three factors when estimating the value of each club: cost of stadium, estimated price of squad's players, and value of brand.
Considering Orlando City SC has yet to play a single minute in Major League Soccer, it is difficult to assess where the Lions will rank on the list in a few years, if at all. However, as Adrian Heath's team takes shape, we are getting a solid idea of what the final product will be in Orlando.
Observing the same three categories as Forbes, here is where Orlando City stands.
Cost of Stadium
Since player wages are not astronomically high in the Americas like they are in Europe, a team's stadium usually weighs heaviest in terms of value to a club. In 2016, Orlando City will have its very own state-of-the-art, soccer specific stadium, which is valued at over $100 million.
Currently, five of the six MLS teams that ranked on the list have a stadium of their own. Considering how heavily stadiums impact your club's value, it is no surprise the top three U.S.-based teams have the three most expensive arenas in the league.
Simply put, this is Orlando's best shot of making it on the this list.
Estimated Price of Squad's Players
Being an expansion team, it will take Orlando several years before they have the overall squad depth as league heavyweights such as the Galaxy or Sounders. Fortunately for the Lions, the club does not seem to shy away from the check book and look to be one of the bigger spenders in the league, which operates under a salary cap anyway.
The Lions already have several players on high salaries, in particular Brek Shea, who is likely being paid close to the league maximum for a non-Designated Player. The biggest impact in this category for Orlando City is their first ever Designated Player Kaka who will be the league's highest paid player.
They need to spend big in the next couple years on role players and get a high profile, big money player to fill their third DP slot in order to make their value amongst the most valuable clubs.
Value of Brand
Orlando will benefit from being an established name prior to the move to Major League Soccer, but USL Pro isn't exactly a high profile league. Teams like Columbus Crew and D.C. United, who will also be getting a new stadium, have been around since the conception of the league, City will have to play catch-up for quite some time if it wants to compete in this category.
While the team is building from the ground up to develop its brand, Orlando as a city has one of the most recognizable names in the United States and is firmly the most visited city in the country. Orlando will need to take advantage of the city's popularity and name recognition to help grow brand value.
I wouldn't expect to see the Lions as one of the region's most valuable teams for many years, but Orlando City is in a unique situation that has the potential to defy expectations.