Soccer’s worst kept secret was confirmed to be true with Tuesday’s announcement that city of Orlando has been awarded the 10th franchise in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
The team will be owned and operated by the Major League Soccer club Orlando Lions SC and will be known as the Orlando Pride.
The Pride, who will begin play in the 2016 season, also announced that the team will be coached by Tom Sermanni, the highly respected former coach of both the U.S. and Australian Women’s national teams.
Orlando is the league’s second expansion team, following the Houston Dash. Like the Dash and the Portland Thorns, the Pride is linked to its city’s MLS team, a strategy the league seems to favor as a blueprint going forward.
Following the expansion announcement in Orlando, NWSL and Orlando Pride officials held a conference call making league commissioner Jeff Plush, Sermanni, Pride GM Paul McDonagh and VP Tim Holt available.
As would be expected all were optimistic and excited, with McDonagh conceding the, there is, “some work to do,” when it comes to building a roster in short space of time.
McDonagh and Sermanni will build the Pride through a similar process to the one used by Houston in 2014. Orlando will acquire players via Discovery Signings (domestic and international), the Expansion Draft, and 2016 NWSL College Draft.
Orlando will 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 5 pm 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.
Despite an ultimately unsatisfying experience that saw him fired from his job with the U.S. WNT in April 2014, Sermanni has retained a stellar reputation in the women’s game and his signing looks to be a real coup for the Pride.
With that in mind, I asked the longtime coach of the Australian national team about returning to the club game and if he had been tempted by any other national team jobs.
“I look forward to being back in the club circuit again,” Sermanni began. “I’ve been in the international game for 10, 11, or 12 years, so one of the downsides of an international team is that you miss out on the day to day.”
The first ever coach of the Orlando Pride mentioned, “contact with players, working with players game after game,” as what he missed being away from the club scene for so long. Sermanni added that he is “looking forward to being involved in that again because I think that helps, it certainly helps your coaching skills to get out there every day.”
But what about the job offers? Sermanni, who kept a hand in the game while working as an assistant coach on Canada’s World Cup team admitted, “I did have some contact from a national team during the year, but it wasn’t quite the right fit for me,” Sermanni said.
“When Orlando came in,” Sermanni emphasized, “it really was a no-brainer to come here, and it’s good to be back in club football.”
The Pride will share the Citrus Bowl with the Lions until the two teams move to the new 25,000 seat stadium being built in downtown Orlando.