Since the 1980's Orlando, Florida has been the destination to Disney World - the dream vacation for international travelers. The central Florida area was also a destination for the world's best soccer team as the Citrus Bowl hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 1996 Olympics and the 1998 MLS All-Star Game.
On a smaller level, Orlando has had incarnations of lesser know clubs flirting with fame. The most successful of these was the USL (formerly USISL) Orlando Lions of the early 1990's. Finishing both the 1992 and 1993 seasons with the best league record, they fell short in the play-offs - then known as the "Sizzling Six".
(Official Match Program from the 1993 USL Championship - ISA Collection)
The club honed its skills by playing some of the best European clubs money could buy including Bayer Leverkusen which visited in 4 successive years to Florida. The Orlando club featured several collegiate and pro journeymen of American soccer.
(Orlando Lions side that faced Bayer Leverkusen - ISA Collection)
The 1993 Championship, played in Daytona Beach's Municipal Stadium, was won by the Greensboro Dynamo defeating Orlando 2:1. The other play-off finalists were San Jose, Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Just as they are today, Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers played in APSL, a level just above Orlando but not withstanding of the USISL's caliber of skill.
(A 1993 USISL Championship jersey monogrammed with the Final - ISA Collection)
Orlando will play for the USL Championship once again. This time they face Harrisburg City on the 3rd of September at the Citrus Bowl. The Citrus Bowl, the venue for so much international soccer, will host the match. About 10,000 fans are expected to see the game live which is on par with the numbers following MLS and surpassing NASL (2nd Division) attendance.
It is no secret that the ambitions of Orlando City is to join Major League Soccer and be showcased at the highest club level in North America and perhaps more. With Orlando's large Hispanic population, it could very well appeal to MLS's marketing strategy.
(Orlando Lions 1993 USISL runners up medal - ISA Collection)
Only time will tell if Orlando will reach its destiny at the club level. A win in the final would be a step in the right direction.