Our City is a weekly column dedicated to the fans and supporters' perspectives of Orlando City. Any feedback, comments, or questions? Find Kevin Mercer on Twitter @KevinMercer225
I was having lunch with one of my new co-workers and making polite conversation in an effort to get to know one another better. Inevitably, as these conversations go, the topic turned to sports. He'd heard a rumor I wrote for a blog about Orlando City and immediately began, in a confessional voice, to explain that he'd been meaning to make a game this season but listed off a number of excuses as to why he and his girlfriend haven't made it to the Citrus Bowl for a game yet.
In seasons past, I was an Orlando City evangelist. I would have shot off a number of useful examples of how great the games were and how important supporting the team and helping them get to MLS would be for the city. This year, I have not had to do that; the club has done a fantastic job of selling itself to Orlando, and even those who have not yet been -- like my new friend -- know why they should be there.
I ended that bit of conversation by concluding that he ought to try and make it during the first season so that he can at least say he was there the first year.
The club draws an average crowd of over 30,000 -- good enough for second in MLS. Recently, the Lions sold out their 2016 season tickets as well. There isn't an attendance problem on the club's end. Judging from the conversations I've had, though, there is a nice population of untapped soccer fans still waiting to go to their first game.
For such a young club, there are a number of different types of fans. You can split us into those in the supporters' groups and those who are not, those that came during the USL seasons and new MLS fans, and of course season ticket holders who will forever be a part of Society XXI.
This is the short-term view -- how we might see ourselves today. Fast-forward 10, 20, or 50 years, and those distinctions will fade or change. Years from now, you will want to be able to say you went during the first MLS season; that you've been supporting the club since the beginning. In terms of sports team credibility, this golden level becomes the ultimate bragging right.
Imagine watching the club lift an MLS Cup years from now. As we are toasting the team's success after the game, we all brag that we've been there since the beginning, while you just say "Yeah, I lived in Orlando back then, but only started coming to games once they got really good." Since these are your friends, they won't laugh you out of the bar, but we're all going to give you a massive hard time for your fair-weather fandom.
Times seem a bit hard right for Orlando City; it's tough to convince a friend who has not yet made a game that this season of dwindling hope is the right time to become a supporter. These things take time and patience.
They also take support. Go City!