MLS club Orlando City SC has announced it will form a women's team to play in the National Women's Soccer League. The Orlando Pride are now the tenth club in NWSL and the second expansion team, after the Houston Dash.
"The time is right, the time is now," said Phillip Rawlins, president of Orlando City SC. "The strength of the women's game is not just because of the strength of the national game, it's also because of the strength of the leagues that we have now around the world."
"This is a thrilling time for our organization, our partners, and for fans in the 'Soccer Capital of the South.' With the successful launch of the MLS team, as well as the 2016 launch of the NWSL and USL teams, this region continues to reap the economic benefit of world class professional soccer."
The Pride will be coached by none other than former USWNT head coach Tom Sermanni, who was unceremoniously shown the door by US Soccer in 2014 amidst rumors that some players had revolted against his policy of calling in newer and younger players. This is a crucial get for Orlando, as Sermanni has years of experience in building teams from scratch based on his work in Australia. No doubt his name will attract a certain caliber of player as well, perhaps luring some top internationals from overseas.
"I'm extremely excited and honored and very proud to be part of the Pride," said Sermanni. "I look forward to working at this extremely successful, dynamic club, in this wonderful city."
Rawlins on the stadium "We'll play in the Citrus Bowl next year, then the new stadium after that."— The Mane Land (@TheManeLand) October 20, 2015
The Pride will pick their first players in an expansion draft on November 2 (unless they take a player not under contract during the waiver process), when they pick up to 10 players from the rosters of other clubs. Then they will join the league at the 2016 NSCAA convention for the college draft, where they will be allowed to have first pick over Boston, who finished last in the league this season and were previously entitled to go first. Sermanni also said they would look locally, which could mean looking to alums of University of Central Florida, where former USWNT player Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak is head coach.
"Over the course of the coming weeks and months, I will work closely with the Club's General Manager Paul McDonough to build our technical staff and roster, attracting some of the best talent in women's professional soccer to Orlando," said Sermanni.
Head Coach Tom Sermanni, "We want to bring players from the area home." #OrlandoPride pic.twitter.com/kyh1MVaiPx— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) October 20, 2015
The fanfare with which which the Pride were unveiled is a positive sign for NWSL, who are the first women's pro soccer league to enter their fourth season. They also carry all their founding teams with them. This expansion to ten is the beginning of a new chapter in league history and hopefully signals a strong, healthy league for seasons to come.