Saturday 30 May 2020, 21:27

Candidate Host City: Orlando

Home to the “Magic Kingdom”, Orlando welcomes tens of millions of visitors each year and is experienced in hosting major sporting and cultural events. The city grew rapidly during the 1980s and into the first decade of the 21st century, flourishing as the home of the world’s most well-known major theme parks. Since serving as one of the Host Cities for the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™, Orlando has added a successful Major League Soccer franchise, a rapidly developing youth football system and an enthusiastic fan base.

Orlando’s sports history dates back to 1914 when the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, and later, a minor league baseball team, the Orlando Rays, began competing. In 1936, Camping World Stadium, originally named the Orlando Stadium and later, Orlando Citrus Bowl, was constructed next to the ballpark – and has since staged hundreds of high school, collegiate, and professional football games.

Orlando’s Major League Soccer (MLS) club – Orlando City FC – started playing in 2015, sparking newfound interest in football across Central Florida. After an inaugural sellout with 62,510 fans in attendance, the stadium has hosted games for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team – the Orlando Pride. The football teams now play in Orlando City Stadium, which opened in 2017.

Orlando City Youth is Florida’s leading program for developing players from eight to 18 and the only club in Florida to offer both U.S. Soccer Development Academy program and the ECNL program. There are an additional 30 youth football clubs in Central Florida representing about 30,000 youth. And the Orlando City Foundation has been working in low-income neighborhoods throughout Central Florida to build mini-pitches and offer development programs to underserved populations.

Orlando will continue growing football throughout the community and beyond. Locally, participation in youth football leagues is expected to double in the next five years. Local organizers are already working to expand existing programs, while also creating new ones, to meet the growing influx of next generation football enthusiasts. The excitement and energized atmosphere generated by the FIFA World Cup 2026™ will help introduce new people, young and old to football.