When the Orlando City Soccer Club (OCSC) announced they were going to bring an NWSL team to Orlando, the city erupted into cheers of joy. Orlando City SC got their start in United Soccer League (USL) in 2010. The goal was to become a Major League Soccer (MLS) team within five years.
The fans in Orlando got behind the team in full force right from the start. In 2013, when Orlando City was playing in the USL championship game, an effort to have 15,000 fans in attendance was announced by the head office. The fans did not disappoint, over 20,000 people showed up to support the team breaking the US minor league attendance record. In 2014 it was announced Orlando would receive a spot for the 2015 MLS season. With thousands of crazed fans, OCSC went for another ambitious plan happily named Fill the Bowl. The idea was to sell out the stadium they were calling home for the season. Once again the fans delivered. 62,510 people were in attendance, which included two different supporter groups, for their first game in the MLS that ended in a 1-1 draw with New York City FC.
Orlando Pride and The Crown
With a strong soccer fan base already in Orlando, the Orlando Pride seemed to come along at the right time. In late 2015, Orlando announced they would have an NWSL team to play in the 2016 season, The Pride. Not long after the announcement, The Crown was formed. The Crown is the only supporters group for the Pride.
I was recently able to talk with the President of the Crown, Lisa Raymond. I ask Raymond why call the support group the Crown? The answer was simple, "just like the MLS, [Orlando City] is the kings of Florida, NWSL would equivalently be the Queens of Florida." She then continued "The Crown seemed fitting to exhibit that majesty and embellish our Pride." The Crown is not as big as some of the MLS supporter groups, but they did have close to 500 members for the inaugural season for the Pride. Although the Crown is small in the eyes of most, they do huge things within the community.
As with the MLS supporters groups and OCSC as a whole, giving back to the community is one of the most important and most rewarding parts of being a supporter. The Crown has been a part of many community projects throughout the year, such as a backpack drive to help low-income areas to raise money for suicide awareness and OrlandoUnited, a charity that was created in the wake of the horrific tragedy at the Pulse nightclub.
The Pulse tragedy was a shooting at the Pulse nightclub that was a known LGBT club claiming 49 lives in the downtown Orlando area. As Raymond said during our conversation, "I was impressed with the impact our small group can have." Each group has their own style but the Crown is one of a kind. During a tribute to the Pulse victims, they pulled out all the stops. During a moment of reflection, they have a pair of bagpipers playing Amazing Grace all while a massive rainbow flag tifo that covered the entire supporter section. It was a very proud yet moving moment not only in my life but in others as well.
But what does a supporter group do during a game? The Crown marches into the stadium chanting Pride-specific lyrics with an entire battery keeping a steady beat. As the game goes on, the voices of the Crown will echo throughout the stadium keeping the crowd energetic helping the Pride push towards a hard fought game. Even if the team loses on the pitch, the Crown is there to help lift the spirits of the Pride helping them remember the fans will always be there.
The life of a Crown member can be hectic at times. They are responsible for the tifos, the two poles, theers, and waving the flags. A member must be ready to jump, sing, and yell 110 percent for the entire 90 minutes. The feeling is that if the Pride can run for 90 minutes, so can the Crown. Being a member does not mean you have to be a crazed, diehard fan, being a member means you support the Pride and Orlando as a community. It is more than a group, it is a family.