On Wednesday afternoon, Major League Soccer released the 2015 MLS regular season schedule. In doing so, they announced the inaugural MLS schedule for Orlando City SC.While a deal with the local FOX affiliate gave the club a strong local television contract, this year, the Lions will enjoy the benefits of the league's national television spots.
This new deal gives Orlando City SC an opportunity it hasn't yet had in its short history. While in USL Pro, the club had games streamed online but never televised. This season, the club will have all 34 MLS games televised locally and 16 of those 34 games will be aired on national television.
MLS's new $90 million national television deal has three games aired throughout the country each weekend, as well as occasional weekday games. The weekend schedule will start Friday night with a lone televised game on UniMas at 7 p.m. They will continue on Sunday evening with a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. on ESPN2 and ending with the 7 p.m. game on FOX Sports 1. The remaining weekend matchups will be held on Saturdays.
As an MLS expansion club, Orlando City is looking to grow awareness of the club to gather more fans. This is a goal that has been publicly discussed by the front office. That was a challenge in years past with games only shown over the internet but now, with several games being televised nationally, the club will have that opportunity to grow.
MLS scheduling is helping with that goal by putting the club on national television a league-leading 16 times this coming season. Only the New York Red Bulls will be on national television that many times.
Orlando City has a loyal local support base but the Central Florida market is smaller than the likes of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This means the club must find other ways to gain a following outside of its local area. There are several ways of gathering fans from other markets, but being televised frequently on national television is the easiest way of doing so.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup formed many new American soccer fans that are now looking for a club to support. With only 20 MLS clubs in just 19 markets, the majority of the country doesn't have a nearby MLS club. And while they could jump onto one of the existing clubs, Orlando City gives these new fans the opportunity to start fresh with a club entering its first season in the league. That's something that will be attractive to many newcomers.
As an MLS expansion club, Orlando City has been working on growing its fan base both locally and worldwide. Strong television and radio deals will help locally, but now there is help on a national level. With nearly half of their 2015 games shown nationally, American soccer fans without an MLS allegiance will be able to connect to and support the Lions.