Orlando City SC announced today that the Club has reached an agreement to relocate the Orlando City SC USL PRO franchise rights to Louisville, Kentucky, upon the Lions’ entry to Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2015. The Louisville City FC will begin USL PRO league play in 2015.
Current Orlando City minority owner Wayne Estopinal is set to become the primary owner of the relocated franchise, while Orlando City will maintain a minority stake in the Club. Estopinal, who owns a prominent architectural firm located in Louisville, has been at the forefront of the campaign to bring professional soccer to the Derby City.
“We are excited for the future of pro soccer in Louisville,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins. “It’s a perfect USL Pro marketplace. I feel strongly that Louisville will be a successful team both on and off the field for years to come. I am thrilled to be partnering with Wayne Estopinal and his group of investors.”
In addition, the new Louisville club announced that current Orlando City Player/Coach James O’Connor will become its first-ever Head Coach, effective immediately. O’Connor who currently holds an UEFA PRO coaching license, which is considered to be the highest coaching certificate in the world, is set to embark on his first professional head coaching position at only 34 years old.
After beginning his playing career with Stoke City in 1996, O’Connor has made over 500 professional appearances, including a stint in the English Premier League with West Bromwich Albion in the 2004-05 season. The tenured Irishman ventured to the states in 2012 to finish his playing career with Orlando City, with hopes of transitioning into a coaching role.
Major League Soccer and USL PRO announced an affiliation program in 2013 that implemented the ability for MLS clubs to establish exclusive team affiliations in an effort to enhance the development of professional players in North America. The current MLS-USL Pro affiliation program expires at the end of the 2014 MLS season. In the event the MLS-USL Pro affiliation program is mutually extended by both leagues at the end of the current season, both Orlando City and Louisville will affiliate with one another.