Los Angeles. New York City. Orlando? Yep, I think we can do it. What is it you might ask? That’s become the premiere location in Major League Soccer for players to want to come. That might be a tall task considering Orlando City has only been in MLS for not even two seasons yet, but if we look at all the tangibles the City Beautiful offers, you’ll agree with me: Orlando is an awesome place to live.
Let’s break this down and see how the city stacks up.
No State Income Tax in Florida
Take it from me (a guy who lived in a state with some pretty high taxes), it is a great thing to keep a lot of your paycheck week in and week out. Add in the fact players have to deal with the Jock Tax for away games, playing half your games in a state that levies no personal income taxes can’t be underestimated. The only other places in the United States that offers that perk is the state of Texas and Washington, D.C.
There’s also an owner with a history of giving big money salaries to lure in players. A $500k salary in Florida spends a lot better with a player than a $500k salary in New York or California and their high taxes.
Cost of Living
You know why a lot of players — especially those with families — don’t live in New York or LA during the off-season? The cost of living is outrageous. I know, I know, you’re saying, “Jeremy, these guys are pro athletes — they can afford to pay high prices.” You know what they won’t be forever? Pro athletes.
With limited playing careers and life after soccer to think of, players should want to come to a community where they could live year round if they wanted to and be able to put a good deal of their money away. Orlando offers that and then some. The city has its posh areas — Isleworth, Windermere, etc. — but even those places aren’t LA or NYC overpriced.
Factor in the price of necessities like food and gas, and the reasons for coming to Orlando keep piling up.
LA probably competes pretty well with Orlando in this category, but not NYC. You want a shorts and t-shirt Christmas? We got it. You want the beach in early March? Not a problem. For the better part of 365 days, this town offers great weather and a whole host of outdoor activities that go with it.
There’s no relocating for the winter if one plays and lives in Orlando. While most of the other MLS cities are dealing with snow, ice, and overall misery, those of us in Orlando are sipping our drinks and trying not to get sunburned.
No, Orlando’s not competing with Manhattan, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc…but it also isn’t a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere. With big time tourism as a driving force, downtown, Orlando has created for itself a pretty awesome vibe that draws people in. There are bars, dance clubs, 5-star dining — all of that in an area that you can park and walk to.
Granted, what is offered pales in comparison to LA or NYC, but if someone can’t find something to do in the city they’re not looking hard enough.
So with all that, there’s just one thing missing: a contending team. Without that to draw players in, the rest of the intangibles don’t mean that much. Both New York teams are in the playoff hunt, and the Galaxy have been a staple of this league for years. In order to join the Mount Rushmore of teams, the product on the field counts.
Orlando City has a new regime in and a shift in philosophy is underway. Time will tell if that last piece of the puzzle falls into place.