clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Could Orlando City host a USWNT 'Celebration' Match?

New, 2 comments

As the United States Women's National team embarks on their post-World Cup "Celebration Tour," could Orlando be in the running to host one of these matches? Here's why the USWNT should make a stop at the Citrus Bowl as they celebrate their third World Cup victory.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Like many American soccer fans who watched the Women's World Cup this summer, I'm not ready to wipe off my red, white and blue face paint just yet.

So when U.S. Soccer announced the women's national team would embark on a 10-game "Celebration Tour" after their World Cup victory on Sunday, I was pretty excited. But my thoughts quickly turned to the likelihood that their victory tour would include a stop at the Citrus Bowl.

On paper, Orlando seems like a logical choice to host one of these matches. As one of America's burgeoning soccer markets, the City Beautiful has already proven it can host a major international friendly, with last month's game between Mexico and Costa Rica played in front of a packed house.

But on turf, things always get a little more complicated.

With the outcry over staging the Women's World Cup on an artificial surface, it seems unlikely that U.S. Soccer would force their own team to play a friendly on turf. While this certainly doesn't help Orlando's chances of landing a USWNT game, it's hardly a nail in the coffin.

Mexico and Costa Rica had similar reservations about playing on turf, but with a temporary grass surface put down at the Citrus Bowl, the match went off without a hitch. There's no reason similar accommodations couldn't be made for a USWNT match that would likely draw an equally large crowd and potentially even more attention stateside.

But these temporary grass fields have caused problems before, and U.S. Soccer (and Orlando City, for that matter) might be hesitant about tempting fate. Other stadiums across the country have had problems with temporary grass surfaces, and these issues can cast a negative light on everyone involved.

It's caused problems in Dallas.

And Seattle.

Hmm... Lalas and Twellman investigate the sod field USA will play on vs PAN Tues night in Seattle.

So, yes, the playing surface could still be an issue. But beyond that, Orlando seems like an obvious choice for a USWNT friendly in the near future.

Two of the "Celebration Tour" locations have already been announced, with the national team set to take on Costa Rica in both Pittsburgh and Chattanooga next month. But that still leaves eight potential dates for Orlando to shoot for.

The pitch should be pretty simple. Orlando City boasts the second highest attendance average in MLS this season, and the highest single game attendance by over 20,000 fans. The fan support for soccer in Central Florida is already tremendous and growing by the day.

Oh yeah, and the USWNT has been here before.

In 2013, Orlando hosted the final friendly of the year for the women's national team, as they took on Brazil in a clash between international powers. Behind two goals from Sydney Leroux and an Abby Wambach penalty kick, the USWNT knocked off Brazil 4-1, in front 20,274 fans at the Citrus Bowl.

It's a pretty remarkable video, if only as a reminder of what the Citrus Bowl used to look like and how Alex Morgan really should have made it 5-1 at the end there. But the most important takeaway from this match can be found in the second paragraph of the recap on ussoccer.com.

The sun-drenched crowd was the largest to watch the USA play at home this year and the biggest since 20,677 turned out at FC Dallas Stadium in February 2012 to watch the USA defeat New Zealand, 2-1. It was also the all-time largest to see the WNT in a stand-alone friendly in the southeastern U.S.

If you've been following Orlando City at all this year, this really shouldn't come as a surprise. But there is one thing from that paragraph that stands out.

20,677?

For comparison's sake, that would be the lowest attendance for an MLS game in Orlando this year. While numbers like that used to be impressive around these parts, I think it's safe to say the bar has been raised. A USWNT friendly in Orlando could double that previous attendance mark and potentially draw even more fans.

I don't know when this article turned into a recruiting pitch, but a USWNT friendly at the Citrus Bowl just makes sense. If the issue with the playing surface can be resolved, there's no reason Orlando City fans shouldn't get to bust out their best "We Believe" chants sometime in the next few months.