While we focus on Orlando City, Orlando City B, and the Orlando Pride, we at The Mane Land like to provide coverage of all soccer in Central Florida. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the changes taking place in soccer around Central Florida this year.
This last year was a big one for Central Florida soccer fans as the Orlando SeaWolves of the Major Arena Soccer League launched and Orlando City announced the return of its second team, OCB. While those are the most notable changes, there have been a couple of lower league teams depart and replaced in the area.
Between the 1980s and the arrival of Orlando City in 2010, there are a variety of lower league teams in Orlando. The Lions purchased the USL PDL’s Central Florida Kraze in 2012 to become the club’s under-23 team and renamed it Orlando City U-23. In 2015, Kraze operator Joe Avallone, who served as Orlando City U-23 head coach, founded a new National Premier Soccer League team called Kraze United.
After a couple of years playing in Winter Park, Kraze United ceased operations. This year the club will finally be replaced by a new NPSL team called Central Florida Panthers SC. This new operation was originally supposed to play in various stadiums around the area but it has recently been announced that it, like its predecessor, will be located in Winter Park.
The other replacement in Central Florida soccer includes a team that has become well known to Orlando City fans over the past year. When the Lions moved their academy setup to the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy, the PDL team SIMA Aguilas included several Orlando City academy graduates who were in college. With Aguilas Head Coach Mike Potempa and assistant Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita named as general manager and head coach of the relaunch of OCB, respectively, the Aguilas have quietly disbanded.
While the Aguilas may be gone, a new team has formed to take their place in the Southeast Division of USL League Two. The new team, Daytona SC, doesn’t have a logo yet, but has announced that it will play at the 10,000-seat Daytona Stadium. Along with the Lakeland Tropics and The Villages SC, Central Florida’s college soccer players will still have three teams to play for while keeping their amateur status during the summer.
What these changes mean for Orlando City
Last season, many of Orlando City’s college and academy players spent the summer playing for the Aguilas. The signings of Jordan Bender and Luc Graitur from the academy, with more expected, have shown that OCB is serious about signing players directly from the academy to OCB. The dissolution of the Aguilas further solidifies that plan as they will no longer have a PDL team to play for that has a direct affiliation with Orlando City.
While OCB will be the club’s focus, not all players will play for the club’s second team. The addition of Daytona SC will ensure that all players who decide to take the college route will still have a local team to play for in the summer, even if that team is not directly affiliated with Orlando City. This will provide multiple advantages, such as the players remaining in the area and Orlando City being able to keep a closer eye on those players should it later decide to offer them a Homegrown contract.
There has already been a variety of changes to soccer in Central Florida and 2019 will see even more. With the replacement of two lower level teams, there will be more changes to the Central Florida soccer scene seen since the arrival of Orlando City over eight years ago. The result is that soccer fans in the area will have more soccer, and that can only be a good thing.