Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins has stepped down from his post of running day-to-day operations of the franchise, the club announced early this afternoon. Rawlins will take up a new position of Life-President, while continuing to be an Orlando City board member, representing the club on all league boards (MLS, NWSL, USL).
“When Phil told me his desire to leave the day-to-day operations, I was saddened by his decision,” Majority Owner Flavio Augusto da Silva said via a club release. “He has made an enormous contribution to both this club and the Orlando community. I wish Phil great success with whatever he decides to do next. I have all trust in Alex and his team to continue the story of success that Phil built.”
Rawlins, along with his wife Kay, moved to Austin, TX, almost a decade ago to begin chasing their dreams of starting a professional soccer club in the United States. After a few rough years in Texas, Rawlins moved the club to Orlando in 2010 with MLS on his mind. In 2013, Rawlins and company successfully won their bid for an MLS franchise after securing a downtown soccer-specific stadium earlier that year.
The club entered MLS in 2015, and next March will debut its new $155 million stadium. Rawlins turned over many of his day-to-day duties in 2016 in order to serve in a general manager capacity after the hiring of chief soccer officer Armando Carneiro led to a series of events that left the club without a GM. Orlando City hired Niki Budalic as an assistant general manager, and originally intended to search for a full-time GM after the 2016 season. However, as 2016 progressed, the narrative changed, indicating the team was satisfied with Rawlins and Budalic serving in that capacity with an eye toward eventually promoting Budalic. That happened two weeks ago, with Budalic elevated to general manager, which paved the way for today’s announcement.
Nine years after starting his soccer journey in the U.S., Rawlins is essentially out at Orlando City.
“The opening of the stadium in March is the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle. With the stadium complete I have accomplished all that I promised the community of Central Florida when I arrived in Orlando in 2010,” Rawlins said in the club release. “We now have a very strong management team in place for Orlando City, Orlando Pride and Orlando City B, and it’s the right time for me to take some time for myself. For the past nine years, three in Austin and six here in Central Florida, I have given my all, 24/7, to building this soccer club. During that time, we have won numerous awards and are considered to be a model for both minor league success and Major League Soccer expansion. I am incredibly proud of all that we have achieved.”
Augusto da Silva will not name a new president. As the club’s Life-President, Rawlins will serve as a consultant and ambassador, while Leitao undertakes an expanded role in club operations.