The Mane Land has learned that Orlando City will end its USL affiliation with Louisville City FC at the end of the 2015 season. According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, Orlando City SC will own and operate an OCSC2-type team -- which will play locally -- for player development in the USL, beginning play in 2016. The venue for "OCSC2" games will be named later.
James O'Connor will remain the head coach with LCFC and the two teams will maintain some form of partnership, although it is unclear at this time what that relationship will look like. Orlando City is expected to announce these developments later today.
With these moves, Orlando City joins several other Major League Soccer clubs which operate their player development in a similar fashion, including Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders FC, LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, and others.
Although our sources could not confirm the coach for what we're calling "OCSC2" (although that is not the official name and the team name has yet to be determined), we can confirm that it is someone familiar with Orlando City, and it is not O'Connor or Lions Assistant Coach Mark Watson.
The favorite for the position would seem to be former Orlando City player/coach and current assistant Ian Fuller, although there are other candidates on staff, such as former Lion Yordany Alvarez, and academy coaches Anthony Pulis, Darren Powell and Paul Shaw.
With LCFC's successful start to its first ever USL season, the club and the city may have designs on a future MLS bid. The Kentucky club is off to an outstanding start to its first USL campaign. LCFC is 6-3-5 with 23 points in 14 matches and sits fourth in the USL's Eastern Conference, with two games in hand on third-place Richmond Kickers. Its home attendance average of 6,000 through eight home games is second only to Sacramento Republic's 11,233 per match.
Orlando City striker Sidney Rivera is the only player to be loaned to Louisville City thus far. Rivera has played 197 minutes in seven USL matches so far, with one start. He scored a goal in Louisville's 2-0 win over Indy 11 in U.S. Open Cup action on May 27. In USL play, he has yet to record a goal or an assist, and has just six shots.
Orlando City confirms via press release that Anthony Pulis will coach the new USL club. Pulis, of course, is the son of EPL manager Tony Pulis,currently the West Bromwich Albion manager, who has also led such clubs as Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Portsmouth and Bristol City. Anthony is a former Lions midfield player, who scored four goals in 44 appearances from 2012-14. The younger Pulis has served as an assistant for the senior Lions and in Orlando City's academy system this season.
From the release:
"Orlando City has a very successful history in the USL, and we are looking for this new team to build on that winning tradition in the 'Soccer Capital of the South'," said Founder and President Phil Rawlins. "I also want to thank Louisville City SC for their collaboration this year as our Affiliate. Louisville are a first class organization and we will always maintain a close and active working relationship with them. Lastly, congratulations to Anthony Pulis on his new role as Head Coach. I have known Anthony for many years and I am confident that he can be a very successful Head Coach in USL."
"This is a remarkable opportunity to work with emerging players in our organization for the future benefit of our Club, while returning to compete in the USL, a league in which we were so successful before," said Pulis. "I'd like to thank Flávio, Phil, Paul, Adrian and everyone at the Club for this opportunity, and I look forward to leading our return to the USL in 2016."
January 14, 2014: Phil Rawlins and OCSC ownership meets with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville Sports Commission, potential investors and Louisville Coopers to discuss pro soccer in Louisville.
June 4, 2014: Louisville City FC is unveiled at Louisville Slugger Field as new USL franchise. Team will operate as USL affiliate to new Orlando City MLS club. Fischer, Rawlins, Wayne Estopinal and LCFC Head Coach James O'Connor speak to gathered media and crowd.
November 22-23, 2014: Louisville City holds open tryouts.
December 5, 2014: Kadeem Dacres, Juan Guzman and Guy Abend are announced as the first players in Louisville City history.
December 16, 2014: Louisville City President Djorn Buchholz resigns under pressure from ownership. Vice President Amanda Duffy takes over as General Manager.
March 27, 2015: Louisville City unveils inaugural jersey.
March 28, 2015: Louisville City wins first competitive match, 2-0 over Saint Louis FC.
April 16, 2015: Rawlins visits Louisville to see 1-1 draw with the Rochester Rhinos. Rawlins "very much pleased" with Louisville City organization as a whole.
May 12, 2015: Sidney Rivera is officially announced as Louisville's first Orlando City loanee.
May 27, 2015: Sidney Rivera makes first start and scores first goal for Louisville City in 2-0 win on the road at Indy Eleven in U.S. Open Cup.
June 8, 2015: Sources tell The Mane Land that Orlando City will end its affiliate relationship with Louisville City FC, effective at the end of 2015 season. Our sources tell us that the situation is still fluid but confirm the club is looking to do something locally with regard to player development.
Today: The Mane Land confirmed through additional sources that Orlando City will officially announce today that the Louisville City affiliate agreement will end upon completion of the 2015 season and that the club expects to begin operation of an "Orlando City 2-type" development team locally for the 2016 USL season.
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We will continue to follow this story as it further develops.
Note: Several Mane Land writers contributed to this report.