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How Does Orlando City Compare to Other MLS Expansion Clubs?

While the Lions have already outdone quite a few clubs in 2015, they've still got a long way to go if they want to accomplish what only two other expansion teams have managed to do...

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With Orlando City nearing the halfway point of their inaugural Major League Soccer campaign, it's still a little tricky to get a sense of where the Lions fit into a crowded Eastern Conference playoff race.

D.C. United and the New England Revolution have started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, but Orlando City is still only three points away from the third spot in the conference with 14 points. While it might be too early to start talking playoffs, it's the perfect time to check out how the Lions' first 13 games in MLS hold up against other expansion clubs throughout the league's history. It might even give us a better idea of what Orlando City needs to do to lock up a postseason spot in 2015.

Let's start with New York City FC, the easiest team to compare Orlando City to. In case you forgot, Man City Jr. came into the league with Orlando this year and almost ruined the Lions' first game in the top flight. But so far, NYCFC's first MLS season has been an exercise in frustration.



David Villa and friends have struggled out of the gate and currently hold the worst record in MLS. Still looking for their second win of the season, NYCFC will surely benefit from the addition of Frank Lampard and (according to reports) Andrea Pirlo later this summer, but the club may not be within striking distance of a playoff spot when those reinforcements arrive. Already, Orlando City looks to be in better shape than their expansion siblings.

But let's head back a few years. Montreal Impact were the last club to join MLS before Orlando and New York came along. The Impact were unable to recover from a dreadful start to their inaugural season, dropping four of their first five and missing out on the playoffs. Through their first 13 games in MLS, Orlando is slightly ahead of Montreal's pace but would actually fall behind the Impact with a loss or draw on Saturday. Montreal had 14 points through their first 14 games in 2012.

The Lions are also doing better than Vancouver Whitecaps and Philadelphia Union during their first MLS seasons, but the Whitecaps finished 2011 at the bottom of the MLS table and Philly also missed the playoffs in 2010.

But what about the most recent MLS expansion club to actually qualify for the postseason? The 2009 Seattle Sounders took MLS by storm upon their arrival, making it all the way to the Western Conference semifinals and winning the U.S. Open Cup. Through their first 13 games, Seattle had already hit 20 points and established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference. So, Orlando isn't quite there yet.

The bottom line is that competing as an expansion team is hard to do in any sport, and that's no different in MLS.

Orlando is already off to a better start than quite a few MLS expansion clubs throughout history. And with more star power in their midfield than most of these teams had on their entire squad, that's not exactly surprising. But, according to the numbers, Orlando still has a long way to go if they want to make a playoff push this season.

No team has qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs with fewer than 43 points (Vancouver, 2012) in the current playoff format, and Orlando would need three wins in their next four games to put themselves on pace for that mark. The Lions would probably need at least one victory in their next four to stay within a win of the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando City is already playing better than history would suggest they should, but the Lions will need to find another gear if they hope to make a little history in 2015.