ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Orlando City Soccer Club enthusiastically announced today the renewal of the I-4 Derby series to take place beginning in April. Orlando City, soon to join MLS, will host the first leg of the series at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Wednesday, April 30. The Rowdies will host the return leg at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg on July 6.
“Watch out Orlando, the Rowdies are coming,” said the club’s principal owner Bill Edwards. “Soccer is a sport of tradition. I am pleased we will be able to continue the I-4 Derby, and invite soccer fans to come out to what I know will be two of the most hard-fought games of the 2014 season.”
The Rowdies are the 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl Champions, narrowly missing the chance to defend their title in 2013. Now under new ownership, the club’s roster has been retooled and upgraded for the 2014 season, including the offseason additions of 2013 NASL Golden Boot winner Brian Shriver and Major League Soccer standout goalkeeper Matt Pickens. The roster also boasts experienced players such as 2013 NASL Golden Ball winner Georgi Hristov and former Norwich and Stoke City midfielder Darel Russell.
The I-4 Derby was inaugurated in 2013 with overwhelming fan support from both clubs. Massive crowds packed stadiums in both central Florida cities, with seas of green and purple making the nearly 100-mile journey to support their home club. The winner of the I-4 Derby will be determined by aggregate goals, combining the scores from both the first and second matches of this series.
“We want another Florida rivalry,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. Fort Lauderdale is four hours away, but Orlando is only an hour away and they’re a quality side. (Orlando City coach) Adrian Heath is a close friend from when we were back in England. We owe them a defeat this year.”
Orlando City earned its second USL Pro Championship in 2013, defeating the Charlotte Eagles 7-4 in the championship match. The Lions finished the regular season in second place. Orlando City advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, including victories over the Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City. The Lions will join Major League Soccer in 2015.
The Rowdies will kick off the 2014 NASL Season on Saturday, April 12 against FC Edmonton at downtown St. Petersburg Al Lang Stadium.