Orlando City Stadium is set to host a major event, as a World Cup qualifier featuring the U.S. men’s national team will be staged at the facility this fall.
Scheduled for October, the qualifying match will feature the U.S. against Panama. While the game itself will carry significance, the event should be a positive reflection on Orlando City Stadium.
The facility has opened this year to strong reviews, and is poised to provide a unique venue for a World Cup qualifier. Furthermore, landing a World Cup qualifier is something that fits not only into one of the main objectives of Orlando City Stadium, but Orlando’s push to bring major sporting events to the city. More from The Orlando Sentinel:
The qualifier is part of a broader goal stated many times by Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer, a quest to make Orlando a sporting destination. It’s the reason why Camping World Stadium underwent a multimillion dollar renovation and why Orlando hosted Copa America Centenario matches, men’s NCAA tournament basketball games, the Pro Bowl and Wrestlemania, among other events.
Leitão said it took a combined effort from the city, the club and the Central Florida Sports Commission to finalize the World Cup qualifier. The match will be run by U.S. Soccer, but Leitão hopes the federation leaves the stadium the way it is, with the standing-only supporters section. There is an option to add seats to that area.
The stadium holds 25,500 people, and and some people have wondered why the match is scheduled there instead of much-larger Camping World Stadium.
“They want the atmosphere, they want soccer-specific stadium,” [ Orlando City CEO Alex’ Leitão answered. “It’s great for soccer overall. Sometimes people don’t understand, they’re just looking at how many people can you put in the building? Sometimes it’s not about how many people, it’s about the atmosphere. They want exactly what we do every weekend in our building when Orlando City plays.
In the months since its March opening, Orlando City Stadium has earned plenty of high marks. We noted during our visit that it allows for one of the most unique atmospheres in the sport, as it is designed to bring fans close to the action. Orlando City SC is 5-0-0 at the facility thus far, and has drawn an average of 25,527 through five home matches.
Orlando City Stadium is expected to be officially announced as a World Cup qualifier host on Monday. It will not be the only MLS stadium to host a qualifying match this fall, as SI.com has previously reported that the New York Red Bull’s Red Bull Arena will host a contest between the U.S. and Costa Rica in September.