As we count down to the new year of 2017 – which will be Orlando City SC's third in MLS and second in the NWSL – and say goodbye to 2016, it's time to look back at the club's 10 best moments of the year.
Since joining Major League Soccer, Orlando City SC has maintained an interest in becoming a global club. Our No. 10 moment of the year is actually two moments in which the club took steps toward its global goals. The calendar year of 2016 saw Orlando City partner with two international clubs – Stoke City of the English Premier League and Clube Atlético Paranaense from Brazil’s Serie A.
On May 6, the organization completed a long awaited partnership with Stoke City. On Nov. 1, Orlando City added another partnership – this time with Brazilian side Atlético Paranaense. So, our No. 10 “moment” may be a bit of a cheat, but the combination of the two partnerships should prove fruitful for the Lions down the road.
"It was very clear that we've always had a good relationship with Stoke City and it came down to us wanting to reignite that synergy and bring our clubs closer together," said Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins on the club’s website back in May. "This will be our only partnership in England, and we hope to kindle passions for both our clubs in each other's markets."
"We are proud of partnering with Atlético Paranaense, a club with more than 90 years of history," Rawlins said in a club press release in November. "In addition to their success on the pitch, they possess a vast knowledge on the process of developing a successful academy and running a top-notch training facility.”
The partnerships augment what the club has already built with Portugal’s Benfica, giving Orlando tentacles into three world-class organizations. The Benfica connection has paid dividends for a couple of years with right back Rafael Ramos plying his trade with the Lions. In theory, the two new partnerships will work similarly.
We’ve already seen the Stoke City partnership at work, in the form of a mid-season friendly at the Titan Soccer Complex in Melbourne. Likewise, the Lions will host Paranaense in a 2017 friendly and visit the Brazilian club in 2018 for another in Curitiba, Brazil.
The Lions and Stoke City will work together on player-exchanging opportunities, player scouting and recruitment strategies, as well as cross-promotions to enhance fan experience. The cross-promotion can only help Orlando City’s growing following in England.
Less than two months old, the Paranaense partnership has been an active one already. Jason Kreis visited the Brazilian side, touring the team’s facilities, meeting with the technical staff, and watching first-team training. In addition, Orlando City’s U-17 academy team took part in Paranaense’s recent invitational tournament against the host’s U-17s, as well as U-17 teams from India and Uruguay. That experience is invaluable for the next generation of Lions.
Come back every day through New Year's Eve to count down the remainder of Orlando City's top 10 moments of 2016.