Orlando City B kicks off its United Soccer League (USL) season next weekend, and it will take place in a league that is very familiar, and yet quite different at the same time. It's like going to visit your old neighborhood only to find that the house you grew up in now has a new apartment over the garage and your tree house has been knocked down.
Well guess what? We're moving back on the block, and we're looking to take back our throne as king of the cul-de-sac. Before we go knocking door-to-door, however, let's look at some old photo albums and review what we know about the league. So, now that I've beaten that analogy to death, let's launch into a one-man USL Q&A.
So, tell me about this USL.
Well, let me just say this isn’t your father’s USL. No, seriously. That one, which included such teams as the Jacksonville Tea Men and the Houston Dynamo, folded in 1985. That league was a revival of the American Soccer League, which can trace its roots all the way back to 1922 (and which included some amazing team names, such as Brookhattan and the Uhrik Truckers).
No, this USL started play in 2011, after a merger of the previous USL First and Second divisions, which were in turn founded in 2005 and 1995, respectively. After neither was sanctioned in 2010, they joined forces to become the USL Pro league, and were sanctioned a Division III league by the USSF.
In 2013, the league reached an agreement with MLS to integrate with the MLS Reserve League. After the Reserve League ended play in 2014, MLS teams had to either affiliate with a USL team or create one of their own. More on that later.
On Feb 10, 2015, the league dropped "Pro" from its moniker and was rebranded the USL.
How does any of this play into Orlando City’s history?
Well, the most successful team in USL history is…wait for it…your Orlando City Soccer Club! The Lions are the owners of two USL championships, including the inaugural season of 2011 and the 2013 season. They also set a USL attendance record when 20,886 attended the 2013 final in the Citrus Bowl. OCSC won that match, 7-4, in what was clearly a defensive battle for the ages.
Then Orlando City moved on to MLS to give other teams a chance, right?
Yes, but the spirit carried on with Orlando City's affiliate, Louisville FC.
They won the title last year?
Last year's champions were the Rochester Rhinos. They dominated the regular season with 61 points on the backs of a defense that gave up a measly 0.54 goals per game (next best was at 1.08). Their leading scorers were Christian Volesky and Steevan Dos Santos, with eight goals each.
It should be noted that since the end of last season, the league terminated the team's ownership agreement. They have since resolved the issue by finding a new ownership team.
What does that have to do with Louisville?
Nothing. Except that Louisville was the second best team, with 48 points, and had the league MVP in Matt Fondy, who scored a league record 22 goals (breaking Kevin Molino's record). They also had the Defensive Player of the Year in former Lion Bryan Burke, though both he and Fondy have moved on to the Jacksonville Armada of the NASL. The team also led the league with 1.96 goals scored per game, and ultimately lost to the Rhinos in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Is any of this relevant to OCB?
Well, you're not very helpful, are you?
You realize we’re the same person, right? Actually, there is some relevance, as OCB will be in the Eastern Conference with both teams, with a natural rivalry possibly forming against Louisville. Also in the east are Bethlehem Steel FC, Charleston Battery (remember the epic U.S. Open Cup match from last year?), Charlotte Independence, FC Cincinnati, FC Montreal, Harrisburg City Islanders, New York Red Bulls II, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Toronto FC II, and Wilmington Hammerheads FC.
Wait, I don't recognize some of those names. What's new this year?
More like, "what isn't?" Including OCB, there are six new teams for the 2016 season. B is joined by FC Cincinnati, Bethlehem Steel FC, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, Swope Park Rangers (who win the early name and logo contest), and San Antonio FC.
Gone from last year are the Austin Aztex, who are on a one-year hiatus due to the unavailability of their stadium. They will presumably return in 2017, along with Reno 1868 FC.
Affiliations and MLS operated franchises can be found here.
Aren't you going to say anything about the Western Conference?
No. Because of the league's split schedule, Orlando City B would only play a team from the opposite conference if it reaches the USL championship game. If that happens, we can talk more about it then.
How does player movement work?
Players can be called up from the USL squad for short-term contracts (up to four days) for CONCACAF Champions League games, U.S. Open Cup games, or exhibition matches. They can also be called up for MLS matches in “cases of extreme hardship” — defined as having fewer than 15 players or fewer than two goalies available. Each player can be signed for up to four of these contracts per season.
Players can move in the other direction (i.e. MLS to USL), provided the transfer is free and the player is not paid more than their MLS budget charge without the excess being charged to the MLS budget. This prevents the MLS team from using the USL team for budget relief. There is one exception where a team can use the USL for roster or budget relief, provided the player is younger than 25 years old, is paid less than the MLS Senior Minimum Salary, and stays with the USL team for the full season (excluding goalkeeper hardship call-ups).
Our SBN sister site RSL Soapbox does a good job of summarizing it all here. Though tread gently over there. They may still be sore about that opening day thing.
What are some story lines to look forward to this season?
There are a few. Here's a quick breakdown
Homegrown Players: Orlando City has a number of Homegrown Players who should be developing in the USL. These include GK Mason Stajduhar, Harrison Heath, and Tyler Turner. Tommy Redding was expected to be on that list, but it appears now he’s done plenty to stick with the senior side. One of the primary objectives of OCB will be to help these players mature on the pitch. I should mention that none are currently listed on the OCB roster, but the development of these players is key to the club’s future, and isn’t that what OCB is all about? Expect to see a few of them in the USL, though noting the limited player movement allowed between leagues, the club may decide to keep one or two in Orlando for depth.
Veteran leadership: Lewis Neal will be a key element to this team, as he will act as a de facto on-field coach. If you’ve watched any other sport where young players are learning to be professionals, you know it’s key. As a Florida Panthers fan, I can tell you that without Jaromir Jagr or Willie Mitchell, this year’s team would not be in first place right now (it still feels weird to say that).
2016 SuperDraft: Richie Laryea, Hadji Barry, and Antonio Matarazzo are all likely to play in Melbourne this year. In fact, Matarazzo signed a contract with OCB despite being drafted by the senior club. Laryea and Barry are currently with the senior Lions (which I would like to start referring to as The A-Team), but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get more playing time with B.
Mendoza's title run: Colombian midfielder Johnny Mendoza has quite the USL resume, as well as some history with Orlando City. He was on the 2013 championship winning club and spent last year with Rochester. Hopefully, it's not one of those odd-year things, and he can bring some of that winning magic down to Melbourne.
Forward youth movement: The team has some good experience on defense and in the midfield, but the forward ranks are all about youth and potential. While the definition of USL is pretty much youth, this group is the least experienced on the team. Canadian Michael Cox is the oldest (23) and most experienced player in that position group, having spent the last two years playing in Portugal and Sweden. Pierre da Silva was a member of the U.S. U-17 2015 World Cup team. Dembakwi Yomba just missed out on last year’s U-20 World Cup team. So, the potential is there, but how quickly they mesh may define the early season success. Even if Barry joins the squad, it’s not like he’s a seasoned veteran, being just out of college.
Team chemistry: Just like last year's MLS team, this year's OCB squad is an expansion team and will have to quickly learn how to play together. Many other teams will be going through the same growing pains, but that also means there's an opportunity should Head Coach Anthony Pulis be able to pull the right strings. The team that gels the most quickly may find a bit of an advantage early in the season.
Fan support: The team's home field at Eastern Florida State College is a top notch pitch. But it remains to be seen just how well the team will be received by the community. I live approximately a mile from the stadium, and while I can tell you that coverage in the local paper has been decent, there has not been much of a media push. I assure you that if I ask the average Melbournian (Melbournite?) about the team, they would say that they've heard of the team, but they have no idea that they're starting play within a week. There is a pretty strong soccer community here, so hopefully that will be enough, but betting on "word of mouth" is always a bit dangerous.
What are some key games to look forward to?
Here's a link to The Mane Land's schedule preview, but here are a few key ones:
- First game: March 26 vs Wilmington at home.
- First road game and first Purple Battle Royale versus the old affiliate: Friday, April 1 @ Louisville.
- First game against the defending champions: Sunday, May 22 at home.
Thanks, anything else?
Well, that's enough for now. Stay tuned to The Mane Land for more information and all your OCB coverage.
Orlando City B Announces Schedule for 2024 MLS NEXT Pro Season
Discover where, when, and who Orlando City B will play during the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season.
The 2024 MLS NEXT Pro schedule was released this afternoon for Orlando City B. This season will see an increase from 27 to 29 teams in the league with the additions of Carolina Core FC and Chattanooga FC — the first independent clubs in the league since 2022. The schedule remains at 28 games, with each team playing 14 at home and 14 away. Most OCB home games will take place at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, but the location of the home opener against Inter Miami II has yet to be announced.
OCB will start the 2024 season with a two-game road trip, beginning on March 16 against Atlanta United 2 and concluding on March 22 against Huntsville City FC. The home opener against Inter Miami II will take place on April 2 with a location to be determined in the near future. The season will end on the road as well, as the Young Lions will face FC Cincinnati 2 at TQL Stadium, home of the first team, on Oct. 6. The Eastern Conference games on Decision Day will all begin at 1 p.m.
MLS NEXT Pro has decided to change its division format to include the new teams. OCB will be a part of the new Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference, including Atlanta United 2, Huntsville City FC, Inter Miami II, Crown Legacy FC, Carolina Core FC, and Chattanooga FC. Chicago Fire II, Columbus Crew 2, and FC Cincinnati 2, former members of the Central Division with OCB, will move to the Northeast Division.
For the third consecutive season, MLS NEXT Pro teams will only play opponents from their own conference, limiting travel. The Young Lions will play each team in the Southeast Division three times and the teams from the Northeast Division once. The exceptions are New York Red Bulls II and New York City FC II, who they’ll face twice this year.
The busiest month for OCB this season will be in April when it plays five games. The Young Lions will play four games in May, June, July, August, and September, twice in March, and once in October. The team will compete on all seven days of the week this season. The most common day the Young Lions will play is on Sunday (13 games), which was expected since the first team usually plays on Saturday. Additionally, they have five games on Saturday, three games each on Wednesday and Friday, two games on Thursday, and one game on Monday and Tuesday.
The addition of two teams sees an expansion of the playoffs from 14 to 16 teams. The top four seeds in each conference will host the first round and, for the second consecutive season, pick their opponents. The highest remaining seed will pick its opponent in the second round, setting up the conference semifinal matchups. The postseason will include 15 games this year, concluding with the MLS NEXT Pro Cup.
The rules from the 2023 season are returning to MLS NEXT Pro for the third consecutive year. The league has been a place for MLS to try out new ideas, some of which are included in the top division this season. Once again, games tied after 90 minutes will go directly to a shootout for an additional point. Rules regarding players receiving treatment, serving red card suspensions against the same team, and substitutes leaving the field within 10 seconds all remain in place this year.
The majority of regular season games and all Decision Day games will again air on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass. The remaining games will be streamed live on mlsnextpro.com.
Orlando City B’s 2024 Schedule
- Saturday, March 16 at Atlanta United 2, 3 p.m.
- Friday, March 22 at Huntsville City FC, 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, April 2 vs. Inter Miami CF II, 7 p.m.
- Thursday, April 11 at Philadelphia Union II, 4 p.m.
- Sunday, April 14 vs. Carolina Core FC, 3 p.m.
- Friday, April 19 at Crown Legacy FC, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, April 28 vs. Toronto FC II, 3 p.m.
- Saturday, May 4 at Chattanooga FC, 5 p.m.
- Wednesday, May 8 vs. New York Red Bulls II, 7 p.m.
- Wednesday, May 15 at Columbus Crew 2, 12 p.m.
- Sunday, May 26 vs. Huntsville City FC, 6 p.m.
- Sunday, June 2 at Inter Miami CF II, 6 p.m.
- Thursday, June 13 vs Chattanooga FC, 7 p.m.
- Wednesday, June 26 vs. Atlanta United 2, 7 p.m.
- Saturday, June 29 at New York City FC II, 8:30 p.m.
- Sunday, July 7 vs. Carolina Core FC, 7 p.m.
- Sunday, July 14 vs Inter Miami CF II, 7 p.m.
- Sunday, July 21 at New York Red Bulls II, 7 p.m.
- Saturday, July 27 at Chattanooga FC, 7 p.m.
- Saturday, Aug. 3 at Carolina Core FC, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Aug. 11 vs. Crown Legacy FC, 5 p.m.
- Sunday, Aug. 18 vs. New York City FC II, 7 p.m.
- Friday, Aug. 23 at Atlanta United 2, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Sept. 1 vs. Huntsville City FC, 7 p.m.
- Sunday, Sept. 8 at Crown Legacy FC, 3 p.m.
- Sunday, Sept. 15 vs. New England Revolution II, 5 p.m.
- Monday, Sept. 23 vs. Chicago Fire II, 5 p.m.
- Sunday, Oct. 6 at FC Cincinnati 2, 1 p.m.
Orlando City Signs Defender Tahir Reid-Brown to Homegrown Player Contract
Orlando City has signed teenage defender Tahir Reid-Brown to a Homegrown Player contract.
Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has signed defender Tahir Reid-Brown to a first-team contract. The four-year deal runs through the 2027 season with a club option for 2028. Reid-Brown becomes the 15th player to sign a Homegrown contract with the club.
“Tahir is a player that has been in our academy system for a while now and someone that we’ve seen really grow through our development pathway,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He has great potential for growth as a player and we’re excited to see how he takes his opportunity with the first team.”
The 17-year-old joined the Orlando City Development Academy in 2020 and quickly rose through the ranks, signing an academy contract with OCB for the 2022 season. In two seasons with the MLS NEXT Pro side, Reid-Brown has made 16 appearances with four starts and recorded 409 minutes. Most of those appearances occurred in 2023, when the defender made 10 appearances and one start.
Reid-Brown also made 13 appearances in the academy during 2023, helping the U-17 team reach the MLS NEXT Cup semifinals for the third consecutive year. His time with the academy team saw him named to the 2023 MLS NEXT All-Star Game, the third Orlando City player to receive the honor.
Internationally, Reid-Brown has been a part of the United States Men’s National Team youth setup. He made his debut for the U.S. in November 2022 and was named to the 2023 FIFA Under-17 World Cup squad, making three appearances in the competition.
What It Means for Orlando City
Reid-Brown is a recent star in the Orlando City academy, joining in 2020 at 14 years old. This past year was a big one for him in which he became a regular for his national side and on the OCB team sheet. At just 17 years old, the 6-foot-2 defender still has a lot of development before he’ll make regular first-team appearances, but this signing makes him available for selection if necessary.
Before he becomes a first-team regular, Reid-Brown will need to become a regular with the second team. In addition to his 10 appearances, he was an unused substitute 14 times in 2023. The regular starting center backs were Abdi Salim and Nabi Kibunguchy with Franco Perez at left back — the two positions Reid-Brown plays. He’ll be looking to work his way into the starting lineup for the Young Lions this coming season.
Whether Reid-Brown becomes a regular center back or left back remains to be seen. The club also has a Homegrown center back in 19-year-old Thomas Williams, but he’s seen a significant dip in playing time with OCB and hasn’t been impressive while on the field. Reid-Brown could take over Williams’ spot as the up-and-coming defender with a strong 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.
Top 10 Moments of 2023: Jack Lynn Named MLS NEXT Pro MVP
Our No. 5 moment of the year features Orlando City’s Jack Lynn being named MVP of MLS NEXT Pro and earning a share of the league’s Golden Boot.
As we count down to the new year of 2024 — which will be Orlando City’s 10th in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s ninth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2023, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year as selected by The Mane Land staff via vote.
Jack Lynn no doubt entered his second pro season looking to get more first-team minutes. He had an excellent rookie season in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B in 2022, setting an OCB single-season record with 15 goals and staying in the league’s Golden Boot race up until the final few matches of the season. He saw five minutes of action with the first team, and with a strong year with the reserve side, it’s likely the young striker felt he was ready to step into a larger role in 2023.
Lynn joined Orlando City through the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, when he was selected in the first round by the Lions with the No. 18 overall pick. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February of last year with options for the next three years.
But Lynn didn’t see much more time with the MLS Lions in 2023. He made three appearances with the senior side, all of which came as a substitute, and finished with 33 minutes played. On the attacking end, he won four aerial duels, took one shot, which was on target, drew two fouls, and completed three long balls while passing with 76% accuracy. He did not score a goal or assist on one. Defensively, he recorded one interception and two clearances, while committing one foul.
As in 2022, the majority of Lynn’s season was spent in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. He had a phenomenal year in the developmental league, and his campaign finished with him piling up the accolades for his play on the pitch. He finished the season with a share of the Golden Boot with his 19 goals. He was also named to the league’s Best XI for the second consecutive season. However, his biggest prize yet was being named MLS NEXT Pro Most Valuable Player on Oct. 20.
Lynn played in 26 of the Young Lions’ 28 games this past season, 19 of which were starts, and he racked up 1,760 minutes. He also played in OCB’s postseason loss at Columbus Crew 2. On the offensive end, he took 72 shots and put 40 of them on target, scored 19 goals, drew 15 fouls, and passed with 74% accuracy while completing 13 long balls and 12 key passes (but, surprisingly, no assists). Defensively, he recorded three interceptions, committed 16 fouls, and was shown four yellow cards.
Although the young striker wasn’t named MLS NEXT Pro Player of the Matchday at any point in the 2023 season, he did win Goal of the Matchday once — against Chicago Fire II on July 23. It was, by Lynn’s standards, a typical goal. He made a smart run, attacked the ball in the air, and headed it past the goalkeeper.
Lynn added a second goal in the 72nd minute and the Young Lions went on to win 3-2 that day.
The 23-year-old was a vital piece of Martin Perelman’s attack for OCB throughout the season, helping the Young Lions reach the postseason for only the second time ever and the first time since joining MLS NEXT Pro. To capture the trophy as the league’s most valuable player is a major honor for Lynn and shows how vital he was to OCB’s success during the 2023 season.
That accomplishment is certainly worthy of being immortalized among our top moments for the club in 2023.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2023.
Previous Top Moments of 2023
10. The Orlando Pride select breakout stars Emily Madril and Messiah Bright in the 2023 NWSL Draft.
9. OCB draws at Chicago and then wins a shootout, clinching its first playoff spot since 2016.
8. Orlando Pride dump Portland Thorns 3-1 in June, kick-starting the team’s push for the playoffs.
7. Orlando City gets a late goal to defeat Santos Laguna 3-2 in Leagues Cup play, earning its first win over Liga MX competition.
6. Orlando Pride sign Brazilian international Adriana.
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