Defying Expectations


Defying Expectations

Phil Rawlins and the Orlando City Soccer Story

Simon Veness and Susan Veness

304 pages
28 photographs, index


November 2017


$26.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2017


$26.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2017


$26.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

As an expansion Major League Soccer team, the Orlando City Soccer Club marked the return of professional soccer to Florida for the first time since 2001, selling out the sixty-thousand-seat Citrus Bowl for its home opener and going on to have the second‑highest home attendance for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. It was the successful culmination of a nine-year process orchestrated by the team’s owner, Phil Rawlins, who sold his successful sales consultancy company for a shot at sports ownership and a chance to tap into America’s growing interest in pro soccer.

Rawlins was relentless in building a franchise from the ground up, overcoming crippling setbacks, devious politics, and near financial ruin. Underpinning his efforts was a deep commitment to re-creating the tribal passion and community spirit of his hometown team in the United Kingdom, Stoke City, for which he served as board member for fourteen years. The payoff was the Orlando City Soccer Club, an attractive new team that galvanized the region. The subsequent acquisition of international superstar Ricardo Kaká catapulted the club to celebrity status and ensured that its debut season defied expectations.

Defying Expectations gives insight into the challenges faced on the road to success, challenges through which Rawlins has remained focused on the six core values that he and his wife formulated at their kitchen table years ago, continuing to foster a community institution that gives back as much as it receives.

Author Bio

Simon Veness has covered the Orlando City Soccer Club since 2011. He has thirty-six years of experience as a sports journalist for media including the Guardian and Sun newspapers,, and Susan Veness is an international travel writer and author of two books, including The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.



"This is a thoroughly-researched, extremely well-written book by two veteran writers. . . . Soccer fans, indeed all sports fans as well as general readers, will enjoy reading this excellent book."—G. Louis Heath, ARETE

"An inspiring story that readers will enjoy."—Guy Who Reviews Sports Books

“The authors have gotten to the heart of a vital story about starting a soccer team in North America that highlights Phil Rawlins’s unquenchable passion for the game, and the drive needed to be successful.”—Gary Mellor, managing director of Beswicks Sports (UK)

Defying Expectations gets inside the incredible tale of how a kid who grew up in the heart of a grimy industrial city in England brought the Beautiful Game to the City Beautiful. It chronicles, in great detail, how Phil Rawlins turned Orlando into an international soccer destination. Or, as Walt Disney himself once said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’”—Mike Bianchi, sports columnist for the Orlando Sentinel and host of 96.9 The Game’s Open Mike sports radio program

Defying Expectations is a comprehensive look at the life of a man who has developed a blueprint for building a Major League Soccer franchise. Soccer still has a ways to go to catch up with America’s ‘Big 3’ sports, but Phil Rawlins has helped to close the gap, and this book takes the reader on the wild and often unpredictable ride with him.”—Christian Bruey, sportscaster for WFTV Channel 9 (ABC) in Orlando

“Phil Rawlins believed in Orlando as a place of opportunity and innovation where his dreams could become a success story. With vision and persistence, Phil brought Major League Soccer to Orlando and created a passionate fan base that has turned Orlando into a soccer city. His story will inspire and motivate you to make your dreams a reality.”—Buddy Dyer, Orlando mayor

Table of Contents

Part 1. Inspiration
1. The Kid from Stoke-on-Trent
2. The Blue-Collar Man
3. The Globetrotter
4. The $259 Million Question
Part 2. Perspiration
5. Hometown Hero
6. Texas Mission
7. The Wild West of Soccer
8. An Agonizing Decision
Part 3. Revelation
9. The Beautiful Game in the City Beautiful
10. Best Buddy
11. Champions! Champions!
12. The Boys from Brazil
Part 4. Jubilation
13. Painting the Town Purple
14. Stadium Showdown
15. Kaká Fever
16. Full Speed to MLS
17. Fill the Bowl!
18. The Soccer Roller Coaster

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