Though our Orlando City Lions didn't make the playoffs, it was quite an enjoyable inaugural season. There was plenty to be excited about--and much we wish had gone differently. But how did the season stack up to other expansion clubs in MLS history? Let's take a stroll down MLS memory lane!
1998 - Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion
This first expansion year was arguably the best for the expansion sides in MLS history. However, at the time there were only 12 total teams. That meant that two-thirds of the clubs would make the playoffs. The expansion Miami Fusion qualified and became the first professional team from South Florida to make the playoffs in any sport in their expansion season. The Fusion posted a 15-17-0 record, good enough to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago took the league by storm, posting a 20-12-0 record, good enough to finish second in the Western Conference for the regular season. The team made its way through the playoffs and defeated D.C. United 2-0 to win the MLS Cup in its first season. The Fire also won the U.S. Open Cup to complete "the double." Other awards included: Coach of the Year for Bob Bradley; Goalkeeper of the Year for Zach Thornton; and MLS Defender of the Year for Lubos Kubik.
2005 - Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake
2005 was the beginning of an era of expansion for MLS. Los Angeles was awarded a second team, as Chivas USA joined the L.A. Galaxy in the City of Angels. Chivas posted a dismal 4-22-6 record to finish sixth in the Western Conference and last overall. Real Salt Lake did not enjoy much more success, posting a 5-22-5 record to finish just ahead of Chivas at fifth in the Western Conference.
2006 - Houston Dynamo (via San Jose)
When San Jose didn't make good on a stadium for the Earthquakes, the team was moved to Houston and became the Dynamo. It didn't take long for the Dynamo to make themselves at home in Texas, posting a 11-8-13 record and finishing second in the Western Conference. They made it to the MLS Finals and defeated the New England Revolution 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Brian Ching won the MLS Cup MVP award, as well as the MLS Goal of the Year.
2007/2008 - Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes
In 2007, Toronto FC became the first Canadian team in MLS history. Despite posting a 9-13-8 record and finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference, Toronto set the record for ticket sales that season. In 2008, MLS returned to San Jose, and didn't perform as well as the former San Jose team did. The Earthquakes finished seventh in the Western Conference, while Houston went on to take the MLS Cup for a second year in a row.
2009/2010 - Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Union
Seattle, like Orlando, had a built in fan base when they joined MLS in 2009--so much so that they posted 16 consecutive home game sellouts in their inaugural MLS season. The Sounders would go on to post a 12-7-11 record that was good enough for third in the Western Conference and a playoff spot. They also had the fewest losses of any first year team in MLS history, and they won the U.S. Open Cup. In 2010, the Philadelphia Union didn't have the same experience in its first year. The Union posted an 8-15-7 record and finished seventh in the Eastern Conference. One highlight for the team was Danny Mwanga being a finalist for the MLS Rookie of the Year award.
2011 - Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers
2011 was another two team expansion year for MLS. The Vancouver Whitecaps were the second Canadian team to enter MLS, though not to quite as much fanfare as Toronto FC. The Whitecaps finished ninth in the Western Conference with a 6-18-10 record. The record was indicative of their scoring--a league worst 35 goals. The Portland Timbers would have a better go of it, posting an 11-14-9 record and finishing just below the red line at sixth in the Western Conference. Their scoring was certainly better, due in part to Darlington Nagbe, who won the MLS Striker of the Year award.
2012 - Montreal Impact
It was the 19th season that a team used the moniker "Montreal Impact"; however, it was the first in MLS. The Impact didn't live up to its name, posting a 12-16-6 record and finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. The team also played in the 2012 Canadian Championship, which determined Canada's representative to CONCACAF, but lost in the semi-finals.
2015 - New York City FC and Orlando City SC
We all know how this played out. NYCFC posted a 10-7-17 record, finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference. The team also fired Coach Jason Kreis, since they missed the playoffs and finished behind fellow expansion side Orlando City SC. Orlando City posted a 12-8-14 record that left us just under the red line at seventh in the Eastern Conference. Of course, we set the record for best average attendance for an expansion team, and had the second largest attendance figure for an inaugural home match (Fill the Bowl!). We had two players that were in the top ten for jersey sales, and the MLS Rookie of the Year winner, Cyle Larin. Larin also broke the MLS record for goals scored by a rookie.
While there were previous expansion teams that made the playoffs, or even won the MLS Cup or U.S. Open Cup, we were close to the top in regards to inaugural season success. Now we just have to wait a few months so we can see how high we go from here. Vamos Orlando!