The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced today the founding of its tenth club and second expansion team, the Orlando Pride. The Pride is owned and operated by Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer (MLS) and will begin play with the start of the 2016 NWSL season.
"We are very excited to welcome the Orlando Pride as the second expansion club in the history of the National Women's Soccer League," NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. "Orlando is a remarkable organization with an authentic club culture and a community that will help us continue to grow the league and provide more opportunities for female soccer players at the highest level. As we continue to build the overall fan base, we are thrilled to have a club in the Southeast to provide fans in the region with the opportunity to see and interact with our amazing players. We have no doubt Orlando will be a tremendous addition to the NWSL."
"The name 'Orlando Pride' captures how we all feel about the City of Orlando, as well as firmly tying into the Lions family," said Founder and President Phil Rawlins. "The time is right for women's professional soccer here in Central Florida, and we are excited to launch this new team for 2016. We want to win championships and build one of the best women's teams in world soccer. We have taken a strong first step in this direction by naming Tom Sermanni as head coach of the Pride. Tom brings world class experience to our city, combined with the expertise to build a winning franchise. 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 roster for the Pride will be constructed using the following mechanisms including Discovery Signings (domestic and international), Expansion Draft and 2016 NWSL College Draft. Orlando will also receive the first pick in each round of the 2016 NWSL College Draft as well as the top spot in the Discovery and Waiver Tie-Breakers. At 5pm ET on Friday, Oct. 23, the NWSL will temporarily close the trade window and not allow any new player signings until after the Expansion Draft on Monday, Nov. 2. Further details on the Expansion Draft procedures will be provided in the coming days.
In addition, Orlando named former head coach of the Australian and U.S. Women's National Teams, Tom Sermanni, as head coach of the Pride.
"Orlando has proven itself as a hotbed of soccer in the country and I look forward to building on that legacy of success with the Orlando Pride," said Sermanni. "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. I am eager to get started and look forward to the 2016 season."
Sermanni boasts an extensive and remarkable coaching resume in women's professional soccer. As a player, he had over 300 professional games and 57 goals over a 16-year span for clubs in his native Scotland, England, Australia and New Zealand. As a coach, Sermanni spent much of his early career in Australia, taking the helm of the Australian Women's National Team for the first time from 1994-1996.
In 2002, he took over as head coach for the New York Power of the Women's United Soccer Association. In 2004, Sermanni returned to helm the Matilda's and led them to the quarterfinals of the 2007 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cups. In 2012, he was named head coach of the U.S. Women's National Team, compiling a 17-2-4 record in a two-year span.
Sermanni will rely on his extensive knowledge of the women's game and relationships throughout the world of professional soccer to quickly develop the Orlando Pride into one of the leading franchises in the NWSL.
The addition of a team in Orlando will increase the NWSL to ten teams for 2016. Orlando will join the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, FC Kansas City, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit and the Western New York Flash.
Season tickets for the Pride's 2016 NWSL campaign go on sale today for Orlando City's MLS Season Ticket Members. 2016 Orlando Pride season tickets will go on sale to the general public at 1 p.m. on Oct. 25. Fans can visit www.Orlando-Pride.com for more information. Tickets start at $13 per game during the initial season ticket sales period for 10 home games.
The Pride will play in the Orlando Citrus Bowl for the start of 2016 season, eventually transitioning to the Club's new downtown stadium when construction is completed. More information will be released in the coming weeks and months regarding the team's technical staff and players.
Orlando City SC already boasts one of the nation's most competitive girls' youth clubs featuring high-performing teams in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL). A professional team provides aspirational opportunities for these athletes to one day compete at the highest level of women's soccer representing their hometown.
As a reminder, the U.S. Women's National Team faces Brazil on Oct. 25 at the Orlando Citrus Bowl. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET. For tickets, visit www.ussoccer.com. Over 30,000 tickets have already been sold. The #OrlandoBelieves campaign is aimed at setting a new attendance record for the national team.