Orlando City had an indifferent 2022 season. They won their first-ever U.S. Open Cup but only just crept into the end-of-season MLS playoffs. Oscar Pareja’s troops will look for another top-seven finish in the Eastern Conference this year.
Will MLS Ever Catch the Premier League?
Although MLS interest is gathering pace in the UK, the Premier League is always likely to be the most popular league in the world. The big Premier League sides dominate the football streaming figures. Liverpool is the most popular team regarding streaming interest according to ExpressVPN’s infographic, with the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, among the most streamed clubs.
Several big names have left England’s top tier for the United States over the years. England legend David Beckham set the trend with his move to LA Galaxy in 2007, and the likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney followed in Beckham’s footsteps. Gareth Bale moved to the States to help Los Angeles win the 2022 MLS Cup. MLS has a long way to go to catch up with Europe’s top leagues, but it is certainly on the right track.
Can Orlando Improve After 2022?
Orlando City had a topsy-turvy 2022 campaign. They won the U.S. Open Cup for the first time last year. On their way to the final, City beat the likes of Tampa Bay Rowdies, Philadelphia Union, Inter Miami, Nashville and New York Red Bulls.
Pareja’s side went up against USLC side Sacramento Republic in the showpiece September final at Exploria Stadium. The USL Championship outfit put up a brave fight, but the Lions were too strong on home soil. Facundo Torres bagged a brace, and Benji Michel was on target in a comfortable 3-0 win. US Soccer reported that Orlando bagged $300,000 in prize money in the process.
However, they did not have it all their way in the league. In fact, Orlando just snuck into the playoffs after finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. They won 14 and lost 14, picking up six draws along the way. USA Today reports they made sure of a playoff berth with a final-day victory over Columbus Crew. However, they lost 2-0 to Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.
Ring the bell! 🔔 Montreal send Orlando home and advance in the Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs. pic.twitter.com/BmZLKAdJ4C
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 17, 2022
What Can City Do in 2023?
Orlando has steadily been building over the past few years after forming in 2013 and starting play in 2015, finishing in the top seven three years in a row. Their highest overall finish was fifth in the unique 2020 season.
Of course, securing a playoff spot will be the minimum priority for the Florida outfit.
Unfortunately for the Lions, several sides in the East have the same ambition. Last term’s U.S. Open Cup champions are around halfway in the betting odds, with the bookies offering about 25/1 for Orlando to become MLS Cup champions for the first time this season.
We wanna hear ya! Who is coming to the home opener this Saturday? 🗣️ @wicarta19 | #VamosOrlando pic.twitter.com/jh1Can45q3
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 23, 2023
Finishing in the playoffs in MLS is a challenging task, especially for the likes of Orlando. Nevertheless, they have an experienced coach in Pareja, and City could be a dark horse in America’s top tier this term.