Los Angeles is officially back as part of the NFL, which makes Orlando the largest television market in the nation without an NFL team. The city used to host preseason games, but that ended when the Citrus Bowl deteriorated into a facility not capable of hosting games. With a complete renovation of the stadium and Orlando City, the Major League Soccer team currently using the site, preparing to move into their own soccer-specific stadium, the stadium is now looking to host football again - and this time, they are looking for regular season games.
"I promise you, I guarantee you, we will have NFL football in this stadium in 2017 -- one way or another," CEO of Florida Citrus Sports Steve Hogan told the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi after Florida State drew nearly 50,000 fans for its Spring Game at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday. "We're absolutely focused on that and we're going to be back in the (NFL) business."
Hogan continued, "I'm not just talking about preseason games. Regular season games are also in play."
Obviously, if a team were to host a game in Orlando, it would likely be either the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The city falls within the Tampa Bay NFC market, while it is in the Jacksonville AFC market, but is full of Dolphins fans as well. How would the NFL work out who would host a game at the Citrus Bowl, especially if it is as early as 2017?
Preseason games would be easy. The league typically tries to keep some of those games regional, which could allow for a intrastate match up featuring two of the three teams from within Florida. If the goal is regular season games, however, that could get a little more interesting.
The Jaguars are likely out, as they are already hosting games in London. It is likely the Dolphins will not want to give up home games in 2017 since the stadium renovations they are completing this offseason, will only be heading into their second season. The Buccaneers, however, could be an easy choice for the NFL; Tampa Bay and Hillborough County have an agreement in the team's lease that would allow them to host up to two games a season away from Raymond James Stadium.
The league could consider making the game a regular season intrastate contest in 2017, with only one game currently scheduled, and a possible matchup for the other. Both of those games would be Miami "home" games, with the Dolphins already scheduled to meet the Buccaneers in 2017 while if Jacksonville and Miami were to finish in the same positions in their respective divisions, those two teams would also matchup on the 2017 schedule. Two Florida teams in the game could be a draw for the NFL, and a way to make sure the Citrus Bowl was sold out.
That would mean the Dolphins would have to agree to give up a home game at New Miami Stadium.
What do you think? Will the Citrus Bowl get a regular season game? Will the NFL look to Tampa Bay to host it, using their lease agreement? Will they want to see two Florida teams in the contest, meaning Miami would be hosting the game?