Majority owner of new Major League Soccer (MLS) Orlando expansion franchise Orlando City Soccer Club, Brazilian entrepreneur Flavio Augusto da Silva, spoke exclusively to SportBusiness International this month about his plans for the team.
Why the United States, and not Brazil?
It’s a simple explanation. I used to live in the United States and started noticing soccer was giving signs of promising growth there. It’s a new frontier, with much more potential in business terms than Brazil can offer at the moment.
The MLS offered a better challenge. Its attendances are already 50 per cent higher than the Brazilian league’s and amongst the top 10 in the world. There is much more potential, for example, 24 million American children are playing football.
And unlike the Brazilian league, the MLS allows me to own the business and become a league shareholder. The football association does not interfere with operations. For me it was the logical decision to make.
Why Orlando, a city that isn’t famous for its sporting successes?
First of all, there are still no south-eastern teams in MLS. I commissioned a study showing that Miami and Atlanta were viable cities, but Orlando is a special case. Not only is [Orlando] City already a promising club in the hands of [president] Phil Rawlins, but they are also in a region with a massive tourist influx, especially Brazilians.
What is the Brazilian connection with Orlando?
Brazilians have made Orlando one of their most popular destinations abroad. I saw an opportunity to turn City into their second-favourite team. We made a Facebook page, especially for the Brazilian public, on August 20 and we now have over 100,000 fans. I can envisage our games being sold as part of travel packages, and I see opportunities selling merchandise in Brazil.
Are you looking at any impact signings?
We have approached [Brazilian footballer] Kaka to work with us in the future – for us to build bridges we will need a superstar like him, or Ronaldinho.