Saturday, March 7 was the eve of match day and the culmination of all the pre-season events that Orlando City SC held to celebrate their debut season in MLS. The day's activity included a pub crawl between some of the downtown Pub Partners of the club with an eye for setting a new Guinness World Record for the most people participating in a pub crawl event. Photos from the event can be found on the Images page of the blog.
The event began at 3pm and included a half-mile tour of three major pubs in the downtown area over the next six hours. Festivities began at the Harry Buffalo bar and restaurant on Church Street where I met some friends who shared a common bond with me from the Soccer and the City show a few nights earlier: we had all been interviewed for a video about the Orlando City debut in MLS that appeared on ESPN FC. As multi-media celebrities (at least in our own minds) we bonded over replays of the video and more or less continued as a group for the rest of the pub crawl. The streets were festively adorned with purple, and between the purple accents on my top hat and the purple sneakers I was wearing, as well as the OCSC jersey, I felt completely inconspicuous among the thousands of other revelers who were also there to have a good time.
At 4:30pm the party moved from Church Street over to the Elixir bar and the Saddle Up saloon on Washington Street. While there we met more friends that we knew and the party grew even more festive. All the bars were offering similar drink specials as part of the pub crawl, which included Heineken beer and Finlandia cocktails. I opted to pace myself during the event, chasing each adult beverage with a bottle of water and limiting myself to one cocktail at each stop along the pub crawl.
Then at 6pm it was time to travel again. This time we headed for Wall St. Plaza, a collection of bars and restaurants that have a long history of catering to soccer fans in town, as they have hosted large outdoor viewing parties for World Cup matches over the past several editions of the competition. It is also the place where Orlando City SC introduced Kaka to fans as a member of the inaugural MLS side in the summer of 2014, so it seemed only fitting this would be the end point of the pub crawl. An outdoor concert was held at the conclusion of the event featuring the band Passafire.
All in all the event was tremendous fun and served as a great way to celebrate the first MLS match in Orlando City's history. As for the record they were attempting to break they came close but did not quite achieve the goal: they announced a crowd of about 4,200, and the current World Record pub crawl is over 4,600. But the event clearly showed the excitement in the city for the arrival of the MLS and serves as another demonstration of how The City Beautiful is embracing The Beautiful Game.