While baseball may be America’s pastime, make no mistake, Major League Soccer (MLS) is alive and well in Central Florida. With local fans coming from as far north as Daytona Beach and as far south as Melbourne, Orlando City SC fans also come from out of state and even around the world. I am already a fan of Orlando City and Orlando Pride (the National Women's Soccer League team). As a mother of three, I wanted to put the "fun factor" to the test, so I invited my teenage daughter. I figured if she has a good time at an Orlando City game, then anyone can!
Orlando City draws people from everywhere. Lions players proudly represent a number of countries in South America and Europe, in addition to the United States. Orlando City games are an exhibition of sport, camaraderie, and a celebration of our differences.
There is a lot to cover about this soccer experience, so keep reading. If you are looking to get your family off their devices and out of the house, attending an Orlando City soccer game is a great option!
It’s a BIG deal to have a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in Orlando —it is a true privilege to have access to this experience right in our backyard! Making this vision a reality took a village (or in this case, a city), with buy-in needed from the city, the county, and most of all – the people of Orlando. In 2015, after years of planning and funding, Orlando City became the 21st franchise in Major League Soccer. Nicknamed the Lions, the team plays in Exploria Stadium and belongs to the Eastern Conference of the MLS.
The MLS season starts in late February and runs through early to mid-October. The season includes 34 games, 17 of which are home, four US Open Cup games, and one friendly game.
Exploria Stadium is situated blocks from many popular venues in downtown Orlando including the Amway Arena, Bob Carr Theater, and the historic neighborhood of Parramore. Opened in 2017, the home of the Lions transforms cheers into a fandom roar which only adds to the experience.
Know Before You Go
Before you go, make sure to have digital tickets displayed on your phone—paper tickets are not accepted. Outside food and drink is not permitted, with the exception of infant nutrition. You can expect to pay typical stadium prices for hot food like chicken fingers, hot dogs and french fries, along with water, candy and snacks. Download the LionNation app and get 10 percent discount on all food and beverage purchases, as well as earn points which can be redeemed for amazing experiences, like the opportunity for your child to escort an MLS player onto the field, a scoreboard message, or tickets to events like the Daytona Soccer Fest. The 10 percent discount extends to season ticket holders and merchandise. Cash is not accepted at this stadium.
Bags are discouraged -- however, small bags and clear totes are accepted. The bag policy is STRONGLY enforced —once, I forgot about the size requirement and ended up walking back to the car to return my rejected bag. Strollers and umbrellas are not allowed either (ponchos and raincoats allowed). Spectators can access restrooms (men, women, and family) in every section.
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Exploria Stadium does not have its own parking. You may access Parkwhiz.com through the Orlando City website by first selecting the event, or go directly to Parkwhiz.com and then select the event. Parking costs $10-$40. If pre-booking parking isn’t your thing, don’t worry; there is plenty of parking outside the stadium. While the stadium does not accept cash, it is the only form for payment accepted for parking if you do not pre-book. There are road closures on game days so fans can easily traverse from parking to the stadium. A list of those closures can be found on the website.
Get to the match a little early and head to Mane Street Plaza for pre-game fun!
Right Before the Game
Before settling into the stadium, visit Mane Street Plaza, just outside Exploria Stadium. Young fans party with the help of a DJ, giveaways, and a scaled-down field for friendly soccer matches. There are also food trucks, games, and adult beverages. The plaza is a great way to stretch out, relax, and start the pre-game excitement!
Doors to the stadium open 60 minutes before the game begins — get situated on time to experience Orlando City traditions and fanfare. The excitement only builds as players enter the field, the national anthem is sung, and pyrotechnics go off.
Wear purple to the Orlando City games or buy a new shirt at one of the stores or kiosks in the stadium.
Anything purple will do for an Orlando City game, but there is something about sporting team merchandise that adds to the experience. The first time I brought my kids, I purchased a simple shirt for them. They changed into their new shirts in the bathroom and emerged with more spirit and excitement for the game. There are merchandise kiosks throughout the stadium, but the Den is the flagship store and carries the most robust selection of styles and sizes—lots of items available at every price point. Shoppers can add a last name or nickname to jerseys at CITYiD, near section 14 in the stadium. If you want to do this ahead of time, order and customize online.
Game and Season Tickets
Individual tickets start at $20. The next tier of single tickets runs $85 (includes food and beverages), located at Club Field Level or Club 100 Level. Safe-standing tickets, $20 each, are just as they sound (standing spots only)—I do not recommend this for families with young children, but teens may enjoy this option (it's a lot of high energy, loud chanting, purple smoke, and the most loyal of Orlando City fans). Active and retired military save 20 percent on ticket prices. College-age kids get in on their college passes —he or she registers using an “.edu” email domain and gets $3 off per ticket, up to four tickets per match.
If you fall in love with Orlando City SC like I have, you may want to get season tickets, which features benefits including discounts on food, beverages, and merchandise, welcome packages with swag, and a complimentary Orlando City license plate. Learn more about the different levels and price points for seasono ticket packages by talking to Orlando City staff.
When talking about Orlando soccer culture, we must mention Orlando Pride. Pride joined the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in 2016, becoming the 10th team to join the league. The Orlando Pride also holds matches at Exploria Stadium. Orlando Pride is home to big players like Marta, Sydney LeRoux, and Courtney Petersen. Olympian and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion Alex Morgan was an original Pride member, and you will still see fans sporting her jersey today. The season for the Pride starts with the Challenge Cup and runs late March through the end of April; NWSL season runs early May and ends in October.
Attending an Orlando City game is a fun time for all, and a great way to get everyone out of the house and off their devices. There is something inspiring, a collective joy, that happens when everyone cheers for the same team. Getting a teenager to engage in family activities is a tall order —I am delighted to say that my daughter had a blast and we both made some really great memories. GO CITY!
All photos by the author