Last weekend, the Seattle Sounders hung their new 2016 MLS Cup Championship banner at CenturyLink Field. Doing so during a pregame ceremony, the club celebrated the triumph by implementing a uniquely American symbol that would last many years, reminding future generations of fans of the accomplishment. While Orlando City has yet to succeed in even qualifying for the playoffs in MLS, the club has a history of success in the USL that should be publicly recognized by the club in a similar way.
During its years in USL, Orlando City became famous for rabid fan support. While its attendance numbers have since been trounced by clubs like the Sacramento Republic and FC Cincinnati, the Lions boasted attendance figures unseen at that level of the American soccer pyramid at the time. However, its entrance into MLS saw a dramatic increase in the number of fans following the club.
Between the club’s final year in the USL in 2014 and its first year of MLS play in 2015, the season ticket figures jumped nearly 10,000. Sure, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the club was playing in a small venue at Disney due to the renovation of the Citrus Bowl. But that also had to do with the fact that USL clubs at the time were just not that popular, being labeled as minor league.
The club’s four-year run in the USL saw unprecedented success. The club won the league double in 2011 by winning the Commissioner’s Cup with the most points in the league during the regular season, and defeated the Wilmington Hammerheads on penalties to secure the USL Pro Championship. Over the following two years, they would secure another Commissioner’s Cup in 2012 and another USL Pro Championship in 2013, setting a league record for attendance in the championship game. In 2014, while building part of what would become the inaugural MLS roster, the club ran away with the league to win the Commissioner’s Cup for the fifth trophy in four years.
To the club’s credit, it has been outspoken about its successes in the lower league. The crown that appears annually on the neck of the jersey represents the club’s past triumphs. Additionally, there is a crown in the club’s logo that also represents that unprecedented success. But how many new fans actually know what those crowns represent? Or that there is any real representation at all?
Whether it’s a banner or some other display around the stadium such as a trophy case that can be viewed by fans, the club would be showing off its tremendous past. It would show not only that the club has a history that predates 2015, but also that the club has a glorious past of triumphs. It may also inspire new fans that currently care little about the club’s history to do some research into its past. This may bring more attention to players such as Miguel Gallardo, Jamie Watson, and Rob Valentino, who forged the way to MLS, giving the club what it currently has.
Another option, or additional option, would be to display the history of the club on a wall in or around the stadium. Many MLB stadiums have museums that show the history of their team. While a museum may be too much, something that explains the history of the club will show that this is not a club that entered the MLS by throwing cash at the league like New York City FC or Atlanta United, but worked hard to get where it currently is.
Orlando City has a tremendous past of success that, while known by many Lions fans, is likely still unknown by a large portion of newer fans. Finding a way to display those triumphs around the new stadium would allow all who enter the new den to understand that the club does have a past predating MLS. It’s an addition that will benefit all fans of the club.