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Orlando City Learns That No Broadcast Doesn’t Equal Higher Attendance

Orlando City made a business decision not to stream its U.S. Open Cup game against Ft. Lauderdale in hopes of a higher turnout at the gate. That plan didn’t work out.

Fewer than 3,200 people saw this last night.
Fewer than 3,200 people saw this last night.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to please everyone, but in this case, there was really no attempt to.

Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup game at Camping World Stadium was disastrous on a few different fronts for Orlando City, which bowed out of the tournament with a crushing loss off a goal in the 120th minute — falling 2-1 to the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers after dominating almost the entire length of the match. The club did so in front of 3,162 fans — easily the lowest total since joining MLS back in 2015, and the second lowest total since moving to Orlando in 2011.

A number like that for this club is bad. Really, really bad. And the way they tried to avoid that low number was even worse.

The club decided to not stream or broadcast its round of 16 match because of "business reasons" — the only round of 16 match to take that action (or lack thereof). The hope was that it would force more fans to come out to the stadium (a.k.a., spend more money on buying tickets and merchandise at the match). And, unlike last season, the U.S. Open Cup home match was not included in the season ticket package that more than 18,000 fans signed up for.

It was a clear-cut money making attempt that heavily backfired and surely — and understandably — upset a sizable portion of the fan base, much of which resides outside city limits and can't always make it to downtown Orlando on a weeknight. It also deprived Orlando City fans outside of Central Florida and fans of the visiting team the chance to see their team play.

Last year’s Cup game in Orlando, against the Columbus Crew, drew close to 14,000. Yes, a lot of those were season ticket holders that got in for free, but the point is that people will come because they want to, not because you force them to.

It was a Wednesday night game, in a tournament many fans don’t care about, against an opponent that doesn’t excite anyone except for the hardcore fans that love a good rivalry match. If people wanted to go to the game, they would go to the game. Forcing them to do so is an ugly move by a club that has never shown this type of neglect towards fans in the past. The right thing would have been to stream the game for those that couldn’t make it — again, weeknight game, not everyone has the ability to get out of work and rush to the stadium — live out of town, or just simply didn’t have the money to attend the extra match.

Why punish them for that?

In the end, the club went all in on their stance to make a few extra bucks, and got it dead wrong. And now it’s a wrong they need to right, before they upset even more of the fan base that built this club.