ORLANDO — Orlando City SC majority owner Flávio Augusto Da Silva is determined to make the 2019 MLS All-Star Game memorable.
The match will be hosted at Orlando City Stadium, which fulfills a commitment MLS Commissioner Don Garber made to bring the marquee game to Orlando.
In front of gathered reporters and city and county officials during a Thursday press conference announcing Orlando as the next host of the All-Star Game, Da Silva made his own commitment to Garber.
“We will do the best All-Star Game ever,” he said.
An opponent and exact date for the match are still to be determined, but the game will be broadcast on FOX, Univision, TSN and TVA networks and in more than 170 countries, according to the league.
“It’s been five years in this journey,” Da Silva said to reporters after the press conference.
“It’s been a privilege. Also, we have been very blessed to fulfill everything we established in the beginning. The All-Star Game is one of the goals we’ve had since the beginning. We’ve been working with the league since Year 1, so today was a very special day to announce it.”
Da Silva also teased a potential shift in the format. In a meeting with Pro Soccer USA, Garber said Orlando City SC CEO Alex Leitao and Da Silva could figure out something new in regards to the how the match is handled. The typical format of the MLS All-Star Game pits the best players from across the league against a top international club.
“I would wish for some Brazilian teams, maybe,” Da Silva said. “There is a different format people are discussing.”
After a pause, Da Silva smiled and said, “It’s better waiting. It’s better waiting to see this format. I cannot say right now. It’s going to be fantastic. It’s going to be fantastic.”
Garber said he wanted to bring the league’s marquee game to a city he said holds a special place in his heart after he saw the way its community rallied following the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.
“Orlando is a very unique city,” Garber said. “You see this incredible vibrancy that’s going on in the community. There’s a Pride — which is a great name for a women’s soccer club — that residents have in this community that I think sports teams could help elevate and to magnify.”
Garber announced the news — first reported last month by Pro Soccer USA — at Orlando City Stadium, alongside Da Silva; Fred Hawkins Jr., chairman of the Board of County Commissioners for Osceola County; and Central Florida Sports Commission CEO Jason Siegel.
It will be the second time in MLS history the league’s all-star game is hosted in Orlando. The city previously hosted the game in 1998 at what was then known as the Citrus Bowl.
The 2018 All-Star Game against Serie A titan Juventus at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – built for both the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and MLS side Atlanta United – drew a record announced crowd of 72,317.
Juventus won 5-3 on penalty kicks after the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
The 2019 edition of the all-star game won’t draw anywhere near that large of a crowd because soccer-specific Orlando City Stadium has a maximum capacity of 25,500.
It will be the latest major event to be held in Orlando. Camping World Stadium, the former home of the Lions, hosted the past two NFL Pro Bowls and is set to do so again in 2019. It also hosted WWE’s Wrestlemania last year.
Garber said Camping World Stadium was never in consideration for the all-star game. He said the opportunity to host matches like the all-star game is a reward and part of the commitments the league makes to new clubs.
“The commitment we make to our ownership, our clubs and to the cities the development of our soccer-specific stadiums is we want to play our showcases to showcase this beautiful building to the world,” Garber said. “This is an event that’s broadcast globally. It’s going to be live on Fox and on Univision. We want everybody to see it.
“You look around and I still get really excited when I’m in this facility and the unique branding and The Wall, that’s now been copied by a number of our new stadiums. It was never a consideration to move it out of here. Never.”
During MLS All-Star week each summer, the league traditionally drapes downtown areas in massive banners and signs.
The week also includes the annual Homegrown Game, which is a showcase of some of the youngest talent in the league, and fan festivities, such as the MLS All-Star Concert.
MLS Works, the league’s community outreach initiative, also holds events in the host city.
“It’s a soccer celebration, ” Da Silva said. “Our commitment to the city started with commitment to the sports. I believe the community [fell] in love with the beautiful game. I think, to bring this soccer celebration, that’s going to bring a week of events, a lot of events. … We have a lot of free events, we’re going to put everyone together. We’re going to connect. It’s going to be very important for our community. It’s a moment for a soccer celebration.”