ORLANDO – Central Florida has officially gone into hype overdrive for Orlando City SC's MLS debut on Sunday.
The team announced that the extra 2,000 standing-room only tickets made available Wednesday sold out in less than 24 hours, with interest for their match against fellow expansion club New York City FC at an all-time high. Their inaugural fixture at the Citrus Bowl was already a 60,000-seat sellout.
Now, the only seats left are a few hundred season tickets in the lower bowl.
The news comes hard on the heels of the team unveiling a new “founding sponsorship” with theme park giants Walt Disney World – and breathing a major sigh of relief that the CBA agreement ensured the game will go ahead.
“The excitement in this city is now immeasurable,” club president Phil Rawlins said Thursday. “Our supporters, community and partners have all worked so hard, walking the long road together toward Sunday’s monumental match. We’re thrilled to see the final hurdle overcome and are eager for our squad to take the pitch before 62,000 screaming fans at the Citrus Bowl.”
It now seems impossible to over-hype Sunday’s game, which is comfortably the biggest one-off sports event in Central Florida since World Cup matches were staged here in 1994. The addition of the Disney empire to the team’s backers helps ensure a global audience for Orlando’s MLS debut – it will also be live on Sky Sports in the UK – and gives the club instant recognition with the area’s 60 million tourist visitors, the vast majority of whom visit the Disney parks.
“Orlando City Soccer Club is writing an exciting new chapter in our region’s history,” said George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “We are proud to be part of the community-wide team effort to help the Lions become Central Florida’s next great success story.”
Rawlins also believes they could easily have sold more tickets if they’d had a bigger stadium.
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“If we had 80,000 seats, I firmly believe we would have sold all 80,000,” he added. “The fact is, we don’t yet know the full level of interest we’re generating here. We’re also now looking at selling more than 20,000 tickets per game for the rest of the season, which was our original plan.
"We’re prepared to sell 30,000 per game, but it could be more. It’s a good problem to have.”
Fan groups are also planning a major kick-off event, with The Ruckus and Iron Lion Firm preparing a special season-opening tifo in the south end of the stadium immediately after the national anthem.
“We typically don’t leak info on the tifo,” Ruckus president Jerry Updike said. “But I have seen it, and it is ridiculously crazy. It is sending a message to MLS and every other team that Orlando City has arrived, and I am confident it will make everyone sit up and take notice of us.”