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Lion Links: 5/13/21

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Orlando City sold, midweek MLS, Chris Mueller’s milestone recognized, and more.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings-Training Camp Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve made it to Thursday, which means we are three days away from a big double gameday this Sunday. In the meantime, big things are happening with the club and throughout soccer, let’s discuss.

Orlando City Sold To The Wilf Family

If you somehow haven’t heard, Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, Exploria Stadium, and the OCSC academy have been sold to the Wilf family, owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The deal has been rumored for a while, but a statement from current majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva made it as official as possible (though it’ll still be a while till ownership can officially change hands).

The Wilfs have been looking to invest in MLS for some time, launching an unsuccessful Minnesota expansion bid and becoming minority stakeholders in Nashville SC before purchasing Orlando City. While an official sale price has yet to be released, it’s reportedly between $400 and $450 million. It’s too early to know what exactly this means for the club, as we’ll have to wait and see how ambitious they are in terms of spending, what they do in terms of branding, and what happens with staff or even soccer operations.

Midweek MLS Action

Wednesday marked the first slate of midweek MLS games. It started at Exploria Stadium where guest tenants Toronto FC hosted reigning MLS Cup champions the Columbus Cr—, I mean Columbus SC (ugh). Former Lion Richie Laryea started for Toronto, helping lead the Reds to a big 2-0 victory. Eastern conference powers the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution played to a 1-1 draw. CF Montreal defeated Inter Miami 2-0 in a game that included a very lengthy weather delay.

Out west, Houston topped Sporting Kansas City 1-0, Minnesota finally got a win, dropping Vancouver 1-0, and the late match featured a showdown between the league-leading Seattle Sounders and upstart San Jose Earthquakes. The Sounders won, 1-0.

NWSL Inks First Audio Streaming Partnership

With the 2021 Challenge Cup in the rearview and the regular season raring to start, the buzz around the NWSL continues to grow. On Wednesday the league announced a new partnership with iHEARTMEDIA for exclusive audio broadcasts of NWSL games. A new digital station, NWSL Radio, “will feature two of the biggest league games each week live, with replay available throughout the week leading up to the next live stream,” per the league’s statement Wednesday. Between this new partnership, games on CBS and CBS Sports Network, and streaming on Paramount+ and Twitch, the Orlando Pride and all of the NWSL will be more accessible for ever this season.

UEFA Champions League Final Moved

The biggest match in club soccer has a new venue for 2021. Originally, the UEFA Champions League final was set to be played in Istanbul, Turkey at Ataturk Olympic Stadium, but with United Kingdom travel restrictions, the match had to be moved to accommodate its two English participants. There was talk of moving the final to England, potentially to London’s Wembley Stadium, but COVID restrictions in the UK pushed UEFA to another location: Estadio do Drago in Lisbon, Portugal. The stadium, home to Portuguese giants FC Porto, holds up to 50,035 fans in normal times and UEFA hopes they can host up to 20,000 fans for the final on May 29.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando’s other pro sports franchise, the Orlando Magic, released a statement regarding Orlando City’s change in ownership
  • Chris Mueller was honored at Wednesday’s training for his 100th appearance in all competitions for Orlando City. Our Sean Rollins has him unofficially at 99 (87 MLS regular season, 2 MLS playoff matches, 6 U.S. Open Cup, and 4 MLS is Back knockout games). But whose math is correct?
  • Former Inter Miami Designated Player Mattias Pellegrini could be set to return to his former club Estudiantes on loan this summer. Pellegrini was sent to their USL affiliate to make the team roster compliant before the season.

That’s all we have for Lion Links this morning. Thank you all for reading, and have an excellent rest of your day.