Sports in Florida
The U.S. state of Florida has three National Football League teams, two Major League Baseball teams, two National Basketball Association teams, two National Hockey League teams, and one Major League Soccer team, with a second MLS team set to start play in 2020.
Florida gained its first permanent major-league professional sports team in 1966 when the American Football League added the Miami Dolphins. The state of Florida has given professional sports franchises some subsidies in the form of tax breaks since 1991.
Miami's first entry into the American Football League was the Miami Dolphins, which competed in the fourth AFL league from 1966 to 1969. In 1970 the Dolphins joined the National Football League when the AFL–NFL merger, agreed to in 1966, was finalized. The team made its first Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl VI, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys. The following year, the Dolphins completed the NFL's only perfect season culminating in a Super Bowl win. The 1972 Dolphins were the third NFL team to accomplish a perfect regular season, and won Super Bowl VIII, Miami also appeared in Super Bowl XVII and Super Bowl XIX, losing both games.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began in 1976 as an expansion team of the NFL. They struggled at first, losing their first 26 games in a row to set a league record for futility. After a brief taste of success in the late 1970s, the Bucs again returned to their losing ways, and at one point lost 10+ games for 12 seasons in a row. The hiring of Tony Dungy in 1996 started an improving trend that eventually led to the team's victory in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 under coach Jon Gruden. Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls: Super Bowl XVIII (1984), Super Bowl XXV (1991), Super Bowl XXXV (2001), and Super Bowl XLIII (2009). The first two events were held at Tampa Stadium, and the other two at Raymond James Stadium.
The World Football League featured the Florida Blazers, Jacksonville Sharks and Jacksonville Express, whereas the United States Football League included the Tampa Bay Bandits, Jacksonville Bulls and Orlando Renegades. The Orlando Rage played in the original XFL in 2001, and the Orlando Apollos played in the Alliance of American Football in 2019.
The Orange Bowl is a major college football bowl, held at the Miami metropolitan area since 1935, currently as a member of the College Football Playoff. The Miami metro area has hosted the Super Bowl a total of ten times (five Super Bowls at Hard Rock Stadium, including Super Bowl XLI and five at the Miami Orange Bowl), tying New Orleans for the most games.
Jacksonville hosts the Florida–Georgia game, an annual college football game between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia since 1933, as well as the Gator Bowl, a post-season college bowl game since 1946.
About half of all Major League Baseball teams conduct spring training in the state, with teams informally organized into the "Grapefruit League". Throughout MLB history, other teams have held spring training in Florida.
The Orlando Magic began playing in NBA in 1989 as an expansion franchise. They have won the Eastern Conference championships in 1995 and 2009.
The Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League was founded in 1993 as an expansion team. It originally played at the Miami Arena, and moved to the BB&T Center in 1998. They have made one appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996.
The Tampa Bay Lightning was established in 1992, and currently play their home games in the Amalie Arena, located in downtown Tampa. In 2004, the team won their first Stanley Cup. The Lightning made the Eastern Conference Final in 2011 and were Eastern Conference Champions in 2015. They returned to the Eastern Conference Final in 2016.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies of the original North American Soccer League was the area's first major sports franchise, beginning play in 1975. The Rowdies were an immediate success, drawing good crowds and winning Soccer Bowl '75 in their first season to bring Tampa its first professional sports championship.
The Tampa Bay Mutiny were the first MLS club to win the Supporters' Shield in the league's history. The club operated from 1996 until 2001. The Miami Fusion played in MLS from 1998 to 2001, winning the Supporters' Shield in their last season.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies, founded in 2008 as F.C. Tampa Bay, currently play in the USL Championship (known before 2019 as the United Soccer League), joining the league after leaving the North American Soccer League in 2016. In this time, they've won one championship in the 2012 North American Soccer League season.
After over a decade without an MLS team, Orlando City SC joined the league in 2015 after five seasons as a second-level team. The team played its first two MLS seasons at the venue now known as Camping World Stadium before opening Orlando City Stadium, now known as Exploria Stadium, in 2017. Meanwhile, Inter Miami CF, a MLS expansion team led by David Beckham, will begin play in 2020.
Orlando City's reserve side, Orlando City B, began play in the league now known as the USL Championship in 2016, but suspended play after the 2017 season. They resumed play in 2019 as a founding member of the third-level USL League One. Inter Miami will place its own reserve side in League One starting in 2020.
In 2016, the Orlando Pride, operated by Orlando City, began play in the National Women's Soccer League. They have played at the same venue as their parent club throughout their history–Camping World Stadium in 2016 and Exploria Stadium ever since.
NASCAR (headquartered in Daytona Beach) begins all three of its major auto racing series in Florida at Daytona International Speedway in February, featuring the Daytona 500, and ends all three Series in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Daytona also has the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race weekend around Independence Day in July. The 24 Hours of Daytona is one of the world's most prestigious endurance auto races.
The 12 Hours of Sebring sports car endurance race is the second largest sporting event in the State of Florida. Each year drawing a total of over 100,000+ fans. It is held in Sebring, Florida at the Sebring International Raceway on the third week of March each year. It is one of the most prestigious car races in the world. Sebring International Raceway's legendary 12-hour endurance race was voted the fourth best auto race of the world's motorsports races in the USAToday 10Best competition. First run in 1952, the world's leading drivers and manufacturers have competed at the 12 Hours of Sebring for over six decades. The race attracts drivers and fans from all over the world.
Florida is a major horse and greyhound racing market. Notable horse racetracks include Gulfstream Park, Calder, Hialeah Park, Pompano Park and Tampa Bay Downs, whereas notable greyhound racetracks include Big Easy Casino and Derby Lane.
Minor league sports
Previously, the Arena Football League had four different teams in Florida: the Florida Bobcats (1993-2001), Orlando Predators (1991-2016), Tampa Bay Storm (1991-2017) and Jacksonville Sharks (2010-2016).
Florida's universities have a number of National Collegiate Athletic Association programs, especially the Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Florida Gators of the Southeastern Conference. Other notable college teams are the Florida Atlantic Owls, FIU Panthers, UCF Knights and South Florida Bulls.
Miami's main four sports teams are the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League, the Miami Heat of the National Basketball Association, the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball, and the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League. Miami is also the future home to Inter Miami CF, the Major League Soccer expansion team led by David Beckham.
Tampa Bay is represented by three major sports teams: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League, the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League, and the Tampa Bay Rays of MLB, but is also home to USL Championship's Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL.
Orlando is the home city of two major league professional sports teams — the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer (MLS). Also, the Orlando Pride has competed in the National Women's Soccer League since 2016.
Orlando also has two minor league professional teams — the Orlando Solar Bears ECHL ice hockey team, and the Orlando Anarchy of the Women's Football Alliance. From 1991 to 2016, it was also home to the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League and during 2019 it was home of the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football.
Major league professional teams
|Florida Panthers||National Hockey League||BB&T Center||Sunrise||1993||0|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||National Football League||TIAA Bank Field||Jacksonville||1995||0|
|Miami Dolphins||National Football League||Hard Rock Stadium||Miami Gardens||1966||2 (1972, 1973)|
|Miami Heat||National Basketball Association||American Airlines Arena||Miami||1988||3 (2006, 2012, 2013)|
|Miami Marlins||Major League Baseball||Marlins Park||Miami||1993||2 (1997, 2003)|
|Orlando City SC||Major League Soccer||Exploria Stadium||Orlando||2015||0|
|Orlando Magic||National Basketball Association||Amway Center||Orlando||1989||0|
|Orlando Pride||National Women's Soccer League||Exploria Stadium||Orlando||2016||0|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||National Football League||Raymond James Stadium||Tampa||1976||1 (2003)|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||National Hockey League||Amalie Arena||Tampa||1992||1 (2004)|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Major League Baseball||Tropicana Field||St. Petersburg||1998||0|
|Tampa Bay Vipers||XFL||Raymond James Stadium||Tampa|
NCAA Division I college teams
Stadiums and arenas
Auto racing tracks
- Daytona International Speedway
- Gainesville Raceway
- Homestead-Miami Speedway
- Sebring International Raceway
- Streets of St. Petersburg
- Palm Beach International Raceway
- Five Flags Speedway
- Peltier, Michael (November 5, 2011). "Lawmaker's bill would fine teams that black out games". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 4B. Archived from the original on January 17, 2013.
- "Jacksonville Jaguars". profootballhof.com. Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "www.gatorzone.com". www.gatorzone.com. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
- "Marlins Park News & Info". Miami Marlins. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
- "tampabay.rays.mlb.com". tampabay.rays.mlb.com. Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
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