Today, Division 3 USL PRO announced that the franchise rights owned by Orlando City SC have been transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2015 season. The newly-named Louisville City FC franchise will be owned and operated by a group of investors led by architect Wayne Estopinal, with Orlando City also retaining an ownership share. The ownership group is finalizing an agreement to play at Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats.
Orlando City was formally accepted as the 21st MLS franchise on November 19, 2013, and when the club joins MLS for the 2015 season, Louisville City FC will become the USL PRO affiliate of Orlando City SC. In 2013, USL PRO began a multi-year partnership with MLS that features individual team affiliations, inter-league play, and the opportunity for MLS clubs to field a second team in USL PRO.
“Louisville City will deliver an exciting style and pace of play that continues the Orlando City tradition," Estopinal said. "Many investors see the future of soccer internationally and domestically, and Louisville City is pleased to be part of USL PRO and looks forward to bringing excitement and fan entertainment value to our city.”
Orlando City debuted in the first USL PRO season in 2011, and captured USL PRO Championships in both 2011 and 2013. The club also racked up league attendance marks including a record 20,886 at the 2013 championship match.
USL PRO features 14 teams in 2014 with expansion franchises in Colorado Springs, Colorado, St. Louis, Missouri and Tulsa, Oklahoma already announced for 2015. In addition to league play, USL PRO teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various domestic and international exhibitions.
“The beautiful city of Louisville, on the banks of the Ohio River, features a rich collegiate soccer tradition and is destined to become one of the top professional soccer cities in the United States," said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. "The distinguished leadership of Wayne Estopinal, combined with the strong and proven mentorship of Phil Rawlins and Adrian Heath from the Orlando City partnership group, provides Louisville City FC with an outstanding professional soccer organization."