For Orlando native, Sporting KC star Graham Zusi, Orlando City expansion came out of nowhere
As a soccer-loving kid growing up just east of Orlando, Sporting Kansas City and US national team midfielder Graham Zusi had to drive two hours to Tampa to watch live MLS action.
The next Zusi to emerge from Orlando will have no such issues after Tuesday's announcement that Orlando City SC would become the 21st team in MLS beginning with their 2015 expansion season.
"Honestly, probably 10 years ago, it wasn't something that I would expect," Zusi told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. "But in the past few years, they've certainly earned it with the way that Orlando City's been playing, their domination of [USL PRO] over the past couple of years, and how seriously they're taking it."
What's most impressive about the news for the 27-year-old MLS star is the growth of Orlando City from third-division hopefuls to MLS expansion team.
Orlando City played their first official match in the USL PRO league in April 2011 and, less than three years later, the Lions find themselves in the US top flight.
"What they did in such a short of time – that was the incredible part, how quickly they became that good and how quickly they became an MLS team," Zusi says. "Other expansion teams – Seattle and Portland have been around for ages – and for Orlando to do that in only a few years, that's impressive.
"They've got a great organization there, and their willingness to push for the stadium and all of that stuff shows that they're serious about things. They certainly deserve it."
So if expansion came that fast for OCSC, how long before the next Zusi comes along and wears Orlando City purple?
"The youth soccer around there is great, and it's only going to get better now," Zusi said. "They'll get their academy system going up, and it's just going to improve the youth soccer around that area. It's quite exciting.