Orlando City fans show what Exploria Stadium can be
That's how many fans packed into Exploria Stadium Saturday evening to watch Orlando City open the Major League Soccer season against the New York Red Bulls. And even through the television screen, it felt like even more.
Orlando's home field atmosphere is so interesting amongst the MLS landscape. For long periods of time, Exploria Stadium has been a relative shell of itself. As the Lions waned to the bottom of the league standings in the late 2010s, attendance hit new lows.
But those subpar attendance figures aren't what Orlando's fan culture looks like. At least not what it can look like. Saturday is what this should look like.
The Wall is still the largest safe-standing supporter's section in the country. When that thing is sold out, it's a sight to behold. The fans are louder, more expressive and more unique than just about any in the country.
There's a reputation about Orlando City fans in national MLS circles, and I don't know how true it really is, but I love it. I love that Orlando's known for having a little extra bite, being a little extra hostile to opposing fans.
While supporter culture is getting really good across the country, sometimes the individual groups can blend together. There's not much unique flavor distinguishing Sporting Kansas City supporters and FC Dallas supporters. That's not shot at those great fans, but it's so great when different clubs have different vibes.
Orlando has a different vibe, and that's great. When the Wall is fully packed and the rest of the stadium follows suit, that vibe is at full tilt.
It's important that Orlando fans get to the stadium as much as possible, and not just for Orlando City games, but Orlando Pride matches as well. This city can be one of the greatest soccer markets in the country. It's just down to being able to show out.