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Orlando hosts the All-Star Game, Nani’s all about giving back, a new facility for OCSC’s academy, Morgan nominated, and more.

MLS: MLS All-Star Game Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first day of August! After all of the buildup, it’s hard to believe that the Major League Soccer All-Star Game here in Orlando has finally come and gone. I’ve got more on that below, along with the rest of the top stories, so let’s dive right in.

MLS All-Stars Face Off Against Atletico Madrid at Exploria Stadium

I know that tweet is old information at this point, but I adore the use of the Lake Eola fountain and swans. In a historic match attended by a who’s who of big wigs (including the governor of Florida himself, Ron DeSantis), the MLS All-Star squad lost to La Liga super club Atletico Madrid 3-0. The lone Lion on the roster, Nani, got the start in a 4-1-4-1 formation. All-Star and Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor admitted that he didn’t “think there’s time to get too in-depth in regards to tactics.” Atletico midfielder Vitolo was so impressed by the club and city that he endorsed Orlando as a host city for the 2026 World Cup, stating “you can tell it’s a beautiful city and it should be a great event if it’s hosted here.”

Last night’s All-Star Game at Exploria Stadium was the culmination of events that brought Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao full circle.

Lions to Get New Academy Facility

Before last night’s game, Audi and MLS announced a new program to help add resources to MLS teams’ academies, and the first one will land in Orlando. The Audi Goals Drive Progress funding will help build Audi Performance Centers, located at select MLS academies, like Orlando City’s. These centers will be equipped with a vast range of technology, tutorial and educational resources to help enrich off-field academic development. It will give players a place to work on schoolwork, do video study, and get extra off-field instruction from coaches. While the OCSC academy won’t have a full residency program to start with, Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said Wednesday that is the long-term goal.

Nani Demonstrates Passion for Helping Others

As Orlando City fans, we’ve seen the class and skill that the team’s first-year captain, Portuguese superstar Nani, has brought both on and off the pitch this season. Life hasn’t always been one of luxury for the man with 13 siblings from a poverty-stricken city, however. Nani discussed his upbringing with ProSoccerUSA.com.

“I grew up with a lot of brothers, a lot of sisters all together, and we had to fight to survive and to get a better life. At the end, we’ve been very lucky with football to give us a different opportunity and a lot of beautiful things in our life. We are all together in my family. I’ve been in that situation before where playing football was the only thing you could do. All we had was that [five-versus-five] pitch to play football.”

Whether it’s returning to Amadora, Portugal to ensure his hometown pitch is preserved or greeting a bus of kids during Orlando City training, Nani is eager to help those around him however he can. He even saw his last-second MLS Skills Challenge winning kick as an opportunity to give back.

City of Orlando Gets a Year Older on All-Star Day

In addition to history being made at Exploria Stadium last night, the city of Orlando celebrated its 144th birthday with tributes to Orlando City SC and the All-Star Game. The club took the opportunity to wish The City Beautiful a happy birthday, a sentiment we here at The Mane Land would like to express as well.

Mayor Buddy Dyer, while rocking an Orlando City jersey emblazoned with “Orlando 144” across the back, stated that he’s “proud to be a resident...of this inclusive, vibrant community,” another sentiment I can certainly get behind. The Orlando Pride also joined in on the love fest for the city the team calls home.

Pride’s Morgan Makes FIFA Short List for Annual Player Award

The nominees for the yearly FIFA top players and coaches across world soccer were revealed by the governing body yesterday. Orlando Pride star striker Alex Morgan is up for Best Women’s Player, alongside three of her United States Women’s National Team teammates — Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, and Megan Rapinoe. Rounding out the women’s player list are England’s Lucy Bronze and Ellen White, Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen and Ada Hegerberg, France’s Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard, Australia’s Sam Kerr, and the Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema. Make sure to go here to cast your vote for Morgan.

On the men’s side, the list is somewhat familiar, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, and my personal favorite, Eden Hazard, receiving nominations. Many of the names up for Best Men’s Coach won’t come as a surprise either. Jill Ellis, who confirmed that she would be stepping down as coach of the USWNT on Tuesday, is of course nominated for Best Women’s Coach. Here’s where you can cast your vote to show Ellis some love.

In other news, the FIFA Council has officially approved the proposal to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams, effective as of the 2023 tournament.

Free Kicks
  • Good vibes only time. Not only is Charlotte fantastic for doing what she did, Orlando City responded in an amazing way.

That’s a wrap on a busy day in the soccer universe. Go City!