In a story broken by ProSoccerUSA.com’s Jordan Culver this morning and later confirmed by the club, Orlando City B will be returning in 2019, playing in the new USL Division III league. Games will be played at Montverde Academy in a renovated stadium with expanded capacity to seat between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
Stakeholders in the revamped side say that OCB will not be a place for first-team players to get game minutes or recovering for injury, as has been the case in the past. Instead, OCB will strictly be a link for young players between the development academy and the first team.
“The idea behind OCB is really, you know you get to a point in the academy level where you get to the U-19 [team] and then the question becomes, similar to everywhere else in the country, ‘Where do I go from here if I have a dream to be a pro?’” OCB GM Mike Potempa said.
“Most kids go to college, which is fine, but we want to provide an avenue through OCB to where there’s a professional team on the campus that the academy players can see every day, training and playing, seeing some of their own promoted into that to provide the step between academy and MLS first team.
Orlando City General Manager Niki Budalic also commented about the relaunch in a club press release.
“The return of Orlando City in USL’s new Division III has been an ongoing project, and we are very pleased to see this vision for our player development come together for the 2019 season,” said Orlando City SC’s General Manager Niki Budalic. “USL Division III is a perfect fit for the long-term goals Orlando City has of aligning our USL operation with the Academy to ultimately serve at the top of the player development pyramid for our First Team in Major League Soccer. Having this connection will give our Academy players age-appropriate opportunities to keep advancing their game to ultimately compete at the highest level of our sport in the U.S. and beyond.”
According to Culver’s story, Potempa will serve as the team’s general manager. Potempa joined the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy (SIMA) in January of 2010 and was instrumental in creating the PDL’s SIMA Àguilas, which he has coached over the past two seasons.
OCB was founded in 2015 as the USL reserve team for Orlando City. Beginning play in 2016, the Young Lions spent their first year at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne before relocating to the newly opened Orlando City Stadium last year. During the 2017 off-season, the club announced that, while it was dedicated to the USL, it would be taking a hiatus during the 2018 season. Reports nationally stated the team was set to return in 2019 in the new USL D3.
In March, ESPN published a story that quoted Budalic saying that OCB, or some form of it, would be returning in 2019 as more a developmental team. The need for some sort of reserve team was further reiterated by former Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis and current Head Coach James O’Connor.
Judging on comments by Potempa and Budalic, this team will differ from the previous incarnation of OCB. The previous team was primarily a reserve team to be used by those not receiving minutes or returning from injury, while trying to develop young talent as well. While it was initially stated that the team would be a link between the academy and first team, no academy players played for OCB full-time in its first two years.
Conversely, this team appears to be the opposite. First-team players will not be receiving minutes, but academy players will be using the team as a link to the first team.
The next step for Orlando City is to figure out what to do with players not receiving minutes or returning from injury. If not division three, these players will need to see time in the current USL division two. This season, Orlando City has completed nearly all of its loans to Saint Louis FC, coached by former OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis. While the club could continue with this method, it would prefer to have the team closer to home. A future potential option would be to have a hybrid relationship with a USL team in Florida, such as in Tampa or Jacksonville, where Orlando City runs the soccer operations but the team has separate owners. This is a strategy that has been growing within MLS.
More news about Orlando City’s plans will be revealed later in the year. Stay tuned to The Mane Land for updates as this story continues.