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Getting to Know Orlando City's 2016 Preseason Opponents

Orlando City will face a diverse group of soccer clubs as it prepares for the 2016 MLS season. Let's meet the teams Orlando will face in a February jam-packed with exhibition games.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

A second-division Brazilian club, a Florida college team and an NASL squad walk into a bar. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

While Orlando City still has a month to go before it kicks off its second season in MLS, the Lions will have five preseason friendlies to measure their progress. This slate of exhibition matches begins next week, before culminating on Feb. 27 when the Lions host Brazilian club Esporte Clube Bahia at the Citrus Bowl.

But before Orlando begins playing actual matches, let's meet the five clubs they'll be facing in preparation for the 2016 MLS season.

Eastern Florida State College (Feb. 7, closed door)

Status: National Junior College Athletic Association

About the Club:

Orlando City has been training in Melbourne for the past week, at the home of the EFSC Titans and (eventually) Orlando City B.

The Lions will conclude their week on the east coast with a friendly against EFSC's varsity soccer team. This game is really more about fitness than anything else, but the Titans are actually a pretty solid college program. They advanced to the NJCAA Division I Men's National Championship Tournament last season, after a 15-2-2 regular season campaign under head coach Oliver Twelvetrees.

Here are some highlights, which I'm only including because the voice of the Titans sounds so familiar ...

Jacksonville Armada (Feb. 13, Community First Park @ 7 p.m. ET)

Status: North American Soccer League

About the Club:

The Armada may have only joined the NASL last season, but the young club has found a home in Jacksonville, breaking several attendance records during its inaugural season.

The club drew over 13,000 fans to its first exhibition game against the Philadelphia Union (an NASL preseason record) and over 16,000 to a regular season game against Edmonton FC (another league record). All this took place in a season when the Armada finished dead last in the standings.

Despite their struggles on the field, the Armada has at least a couple faces that Orlando fans will recognize. Former Lions draft pick Akeil Barrett signed with Jacksonville last season, scoring three goals in 23 appearances with the club.

The Armada also signed USL MVP and Golden Boot winner Matt Fondy this week. The 26-year-old scored 22 goals for former Orlando City affiliate Louisville City in 2015 and has enjoyed brief MLS stints with Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire throughout his career.

New York Red Bulls (Feb. 17, closer door)

League: Major League Soccer

About the Club:

Heard of these guys?

The Lions' first MLS opponents of the preseason are riding high after a 2015 campaign that saw them reach the Eastern Conference Finals of the MLS Cup Playoffs. They recently sold a player to Chelsea and their goalkeeper just got a USMNT call-up for the first time in seven years.

So yeah, it's a good time to be a New York Red Bulls fan.

While this is merely a closed door friendly, don't necessarily expect NYRB to bring in a skeleton crew for this match-up with Orlando. The club has spent the preseason training in Florida and may have a couple big names in the lineup when it faces off against the Lions.

Toronto FC (Feb. 21, closed door)

League: Major League Soccer

About the Club:

Joe Bendik revenge game?

Maybe not, but there wasn't a club in MLS that gave the Lions more trouble in 2015 than Toronto FC. The Reds are quickly joining LA Galaxy as one of the league's super clubs, with reigning MVP Sebastian Giovinco and USMNT stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore playing north of the border.

That translated into the club's first MLS Cup Playoff appearance last season, though TFC was quickly dispatched by Montréal in the knockout rounds.

Toronto is in town for the Suncoast Invitational, a tournament in St. Pete hosted by the Tampa Bay Rowdies, so don't be surprised if the Reds only send in a reserve squad to face off against Orlando.

Esporte Clube Bahia (Feb. 27, Orlando Citrus Bowl @ 7:30 p.m. ET)

League: Campeonato Brasileiro Série B

About the Club:

Orlando wraps up preseason play with an international friendly against second-division Brazilian club Bahia. While that sentence might not get City fans excited, the Tricolor are actually a pretty historic club in their native country.

They play their home games at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, where Tim Howard had his "Secretary of Defense" game against Belgium during the 2014 World Cup. That was also Bahia's last season in the Brazilian top flight before they were sent down to the second division.

Despite a mid-table finish in 2015, Bahia won their state league and knocked off arch rivals Vitória in the process. So things are actually looking up in Salvador.

But that's not the only reason you should come out to the Citrus Bowl on Feb. 27. Believe it or not, Bahia's star player is Lionel Messi. Well, it's actually his cousin, but Maxi Biancucchi could certainly pass for the Barca legend.