The National Women's Soccer League has added Orlando City as an expansion team, the club and league announced Tuesday. It has been reported for weeks that Orlando City would be awarded an expansion team, and an announcement was expected as early as the NWSL meetings a few weeks ago. Although that didn't happen, the final announcement always seemed inevitable. That day is finally here. The club will be known as the Orlando Pride and will begin play at the Citrus Bowl in 2016.
"I'm proud to announce that we've acquired an NWSL franchise to begin play in 2016," said Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins.
2016 Orlando Pride season tickets will go on sale to the general public at 1 p.m. on Oct. 25. Tickets start at $13 per game during the initial season ticket sales period for 10 home games.
The club also announced its first head coach will be former USWNT boss Tom Sermanni, who led the United States women in 2013 and 2014. Sermanni, 61, led the U.S. to an unbeaten 13-0-3 record in 2013 and coached the team to the Algarve Cup championship that year. After winning three international friendlies against Canada and Russia (twice) by a combined score of 16-0 to start 2014, the team managed to finish only seventh in the 2014 Algarve Cup, without winning a group stage game.
"It's not often in our sport that you get an opportunity to get in at the ground level and actually start to build a new team," Sermanni said. "The second thing is, to be part of this club is phenomenal. It's a rare thing to see a club that is so dynamic and has so much positive energy about it, is so professional, does things properly and has great ambition."
Sermanni, a Glasgow-born Scotsman was let go in April of 2014, following a 2-0 friendly win over China. He was then hired on as a technical consultant by the Canadian women's national team.
Prior to joining the U.S., Sermanni served as coach of the Australian women's national team from December of 2004 to October of 2012 -- his second stint with the team (1994-97). He led Australia to the FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinals in both 2007 and 2011. He has also coached men's club sides, such as Canberra Croatia/Metros (Australia) and Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Japan).
Sermanni has coached professional women in the United States before. He was head coach of the Women's United Soccer Association's New York Power in 2003, taking over a 3-17-1 team and leading it to a 7-9-5 mark before taking the Australia women's national team job for the second time.
As a professional player, Sermanni was a midfielder in Scotland, England and Australia with such sides as Albion Rovers, Blackpool, Torquay United, Dunfermline Athletic, Marconi Stallions FC, Canberra City FC, and Canberra Croatia. He scored 57 goals in 312 career matches.
"We wanted someone who's got experience in the game, international experience. This is an international league, we've got girls playing from all around the world," Rawlins said. "(We wanted) someone who knows the game internationally, the international players that are going to play in this league and who has experience working with international superstars. That's Tom. Eight years head coach of Australia, two years head coach U.S. Women's National Team, he was available, he was there on our doorstep. It was a great opportunity for us to bring in, in my opinion, one of the best head coaches in women's soccer."
The Pride's team crest features the Lake Eola fountain, one of the city's most iconic landmarks. The team's primary color will be purple, aligning with both the Orlando City MLS team and the developmental Orlando City B squad in the USL.
Orlando Pride will be the 10th team in the NWSL and will share the new downtown soccer-specific stadium with the men's team once it is finished being built. The City Beautiful will be the seventh city to share an MLS and NWSL team. The Western New York Flash, Boston Breakers and Sky Blue FC are the lone women's teams without a men's club in the same city.
Recently, Nike announced it will continue to sponsor the NWSL for four more years, pumping much-needed dollars into the league. This is important, as previous women's professional leagues in the United States have struggled to remain viable. Nike's basic kits do not include Orlando City's main color of purple, so the club will either need to get custom kits made, or choose a different color for the team.
Today's announcement also comes on the heels of Orlando City announcing its USL team next season will play in Melbourne at Eastern Florida State College, giving Central Florida three professional soccer teams at the highest levels of the American soccer pyramid -- both men's and women's.
Now the Orlando Pride just needs to get started on putting together a possible roster. We hear there's a pretty good striker who has a husband playing for Orlando City who might be a pretty good start.