Relocating from the UK to Florida is a life changing decision that thousands of Brits such as myself have made during our lives. One British export that until recently had more failed attempts than the United Kingdom has had ‘Nil Pwa’ scores at the Eurovision song contest is the passion of following of our beloved game of football here in the USA. (Or Soccer as they like to refer to it)
Being a Tottenham Hotspur supporter and wrapping up with three or four layers of warm clothing in the winter before heading off to White Hart Lane is something I am unable to participate in on a regular basis but now however all is not lost with football being in the spotlight since David Beckham among many other star players have came to play in the US.
The American equivalent of the Premier league (although some may argue of a slightly different standard) is the MLS. This is short for Major League Soccer. This as well as England playing the USA in the last World cup has given football a recent exposure that many have tried and failed to create in the past.
Things have changed since I moved over in 2004 with the best coverage I could find the being from a website showing the game with Japanese or Russian commentary. Ã‚ We can now be thankful for the Fox Soccer, Fox ‚ SoccerPlus, ESPN and many other channels showing games from all across Europe.
More recently with the arrival of iPads, Smart Phones I can watch games anywhere I want. I now have easy access to Sky Sports, ITV, BBC as well as listening to talk sport without missing out on the British commentary and post game interviews.
With a 5 hour time difference and the US abilities to broadcast live games on a Saturday I can now watch more games than I could ever back in the UK. Best of all a 3:00PM game kicks off at 10am here so Saturday mornings I can be found with my bacon sandwich (One with brown and one with red sauce) watching a game and then once it is finished I have the rest of the day to enjoy at my leisure.
Orlando in the last year has welcomed with open arms the Orlando City Soccer Club. The team is coached by Brit and former Manchester City and Everton player Adrian Heath and is owned by a group of Florida based British businessmen all of whom have helped the team put their best foot forward.
On the field at the Citrus Bowl, (the ground used in the 1994 World Cup) in the first season Orlando played in the USL (The closest thing to the Championship in the UK) and won the league in the playoffs via a thrilling penalty shoot out. Ã‚ The team in the last year have also played many MLS teams as well as Bolton Wonderers and Newcastle United whom Ã‚ they beat Ã‚ in front of more than 10,000 fans.
Even more impressive is that the crowds and the atmosphere that has continued to grow, with the last game of the season watched by over 11,000 noisy fans on the edge of their seats cheering on the Orlando City Lions. (I cannot help but think the three lions in the logo are used as a reference to the English national side although it has been documented that this is not correct!!)
Off the field the club have made it very clear they want to be playing in the MLS as soon as possible. I have met with the management and they are doing everything in their power to make this happen. Ultimately what they need from Orlando is a continued growth in crowds at games showing the powers that be at the MLS that the city can be a successful and welcome the likes of the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls on a regular basis.
If you want to do your part then make sure you get down to the next Orlando city game. With pre-season friendly games and a tournament at ESPN / Disney World Of Sport with MLS teams starting in February 2012 come on down and support your Florida team. With prices as ranging from $12-$25 this can be a great evening out for all the family.