Sports are a big part of life in Orlando, and the rest of the United States for that matter. With many bars and restaurants showing live games almost every day of the year, it's easy for those interested to catch some local or national sports. If watching on television isn't enough for you though, we've compiled a list of the major sports teams and events in the Orlando area, as well as the rest of Florida. Each description will provide a link to purchase tickets for the events, but we highly recommend checking the Stub Hub website for special deals on all sporting events. Usually these tickets will be significantly cheaper than the standard ticket websites.
Orlando Predators (Arena Football) – While not as popular as the National Football League, Arena Football has steadily grown throughout the U.S. in recent years. Orlando is home to the Orlando Predators, one of the AFL’s most dominating teams. They play their home games in the Amway Center in downtown Orlando, and their season runs from March to July or August. You can find out more information, check their schedule, and buy tickets at the Orlando Predators Website.
UCF Knights (College Football) – The University of Central Florida Knights are an up and coming college football team who have been making constant strides towards becoming a top football team in the state of Florida. The Knights have won two conference championships in recent history, and also recently won their first post-season bowl game. Games are held in the Brighthouse Stadium on the UCF campus, and fans can expect plenty of tailgating and rowdiness from the crowd. The season runs from September to January and schedules and tickets can be found on the UCF Athletics Website.
The Citrus Bowl - Each year the Citrus Bowl Stadium (located in downtown Orlando) hosts two college football bowl games. The main event is the Capital One Bowl and the second is the Champs Bowl. Each bowl invites two premier college football teams to compete. You can find tickets and information on the Capital One Bowl on the Capital One Bowl website (not always on sale) and information and tickets for the Champs Bowl on the Champs Bowl website.
Orlando Magic (NBA) – The Orlando Magic are Orlando’s most prized professional athletics team, and if you spend enough time in the city you’ll see many signs of this. From banners, posters, and fans covered in Magic attire, it is easy to see the love the city has for this team. The Magic are strong contenders for their division and conference titles each year and have had multiple famous basketball stars like Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq), Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady Vince Carter, and currently Dwight Howard. The Magic play at the brand new Amway Center in the heart of downtown Orlando, and the season normally runs from October to May, and you can find more information and buy tickets online at the Orlando Magic website.
UCF Knights (College Basketball) – Similar to the Knights football, the UCF Knights Basketball is steadily gaining momentum and national exposure each season. They were ranked in the top 25 teams in the country for the first time during part of the 2010-2011 season. The season stretches from November to March and games are played on the UCF campus in the UCF Arena.
Atlanta Braves (MLB Spring Training) – Each spring Major League Baseball holds spring training to help keep the athletes in shape. The Atlanta Braves call Orlando home during this time of the year and play their exhibition games at the Disney Wide World of Sports. This makes for incredibly easy access for anyone staying in the resort area of Orlando. Spring training last the entire month of March with an occasional game or two at the end of February. You can check the schedule and buy tickets online on the Atlanta Braves website.
Houston Astros (MLB Spring Training) - Not far from the Disney Wide World of Sports, in the city of Kissimmee, the Houston Astros hold their annual spring training. Similarly to the Braves, the Astros' spring training lasts for the entire month of March. You can find more information on the Houston Astros' spring training on their official website.
UCF Knights (College Baseball) – The UCF Knights baseball team plays on the UCF campus in east Orlando, and the season lasts from February to June. The Knights are members of the Conference USA and are regular contenders for the conference championship.
Orlando City SC (USL) – The Orlando City soccer team is a member of the USL professional soccer league. While not quite as esteemed as Major League Soccer (MLS) or the North American Soccer Leauge (NASL), the USL is a highly competitive professional league with teams across the country. The Orlando City team recently was crowned the 2011 USL champions after an impressive season. The team calls the Citrus Bowl Stadium, located just west of downtown Orlando, their home, and all home games are held there. For more information and tickets you can visit the Orlando City website.
UCF Knights (College Soccer) – To round out an impressive list of collegiate sports, the University of Central Florida also offers both mens and womens soccer. Both teams compete on the UCF campus
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Each year the PGA tour stops in Orlando at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Each year the tour brings thousands of spectators to watch some of the worlds top golf players battle it out for the winning purse of over $1,000,000. This event normally takes place in the month of March and you can find more information and tickets online on the events main website.
Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) - The Orlando Solar Bears are the most recent professional sports team addition here in Orlando. They began play in 2012-13 season in the ECHL. They play their home games in the Amway Center in downtown Orlando and tickets and more info can be found on their main website.
Major Sports Near Orlando
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (also known as the Bucs) are a professional football team in the National Football League (NFL). They are located in the city of Tampa and play at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. As the closest NFL team to Orlando, they offer a chance for visitors to get in on the action of the NFL first hand! The Bucs recently won the 2002 Super Bowl, the first in the franchises history. The season lasts from August to February and schedules and tickets can be found online on the Bucs website.
Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL) – The Jacksonville Jaguars are also a member of the National Football League, and they are located a few hours north of Orlando in the coastal city of Jacksonville. The Jaguars only recently joined the NFL in 1995, and since then they have won two division championships and appeared in the NFL playoffs six times. The season lasts from August to February and you can find more information and tickets online at the Jaguars website.
Miami Dolphins (NFL) – The Miami Dolphins are the third NFL team located in the state of Florida. The play in the city of Miami, which is roughly four hours south of Orlando. The Dolphins call the Sun Life Stadium in north Miami home, and visitors can catch all of their home games there. The Dolphins were founded in 1966 as part of the AFL and are the oldest continuously operated professional sports team in Florida. The Dolphins have the most storied history of the NFL teams in Florida, with five Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl wins, and the only perfect season (no losses) in the history of the NFL. For more information on the Dolphins and to buy tickets online visit the Dolphins website.
College Football – Along with the UCF Knights there are an abundance of other college football teams in the state of Florida. UCF is considered one of the "big five" along with the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Miami, and the University of South Florida. You can click each of these schools for more information on the programs, their schedules, and to buy tickets.
Miami Heat (NBA) – The Miami Heat are members of the National Basketball Association (NBA) along with the Orlando Magic. Located in Miami, a trip from Orlando will take roughly four hours driving. The Miami Heat have risen to recent fame with the additions of Lebron James and Chris Bosh to an already impressive line up including Dwane Wade. The Miami franchise joined the league in 1988 and has made the NBA playoffs in 15 out of their 23 seasons. They won the NBA championship in 2006 against the Dallas Mavericks and came up just short in the 2011 NBA Championship, again, against the Dallas Mavericks. For more information you can visit the Miami Heat website.
College Basketball – In addition to the UCF Knights, Florida is home to many college basketball teams. Again, the highest regarded programs are the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Miami, and the University of South Florida. You can view schedules and information for each of these programs by clicking the links provided.
Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) – One of two Major League Baseball (MLB) teams in the state of Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays actually call the nearby city of St. Petersburg home, and the play their games at Tropicana Field (or the Trop). In their short history the Rays have only found success in recent years, with their first winning season in 2008, their first playoff appearance in 2008, and their first World Series appearance also in 2008. Obviously 2008 was a great year for the team. Since then they have made two more playoff appearances but have failed to advance past the first round. For more information or to buy tickets you can visit the Rays website.
Miami Marlins (MLB) – The Miami Marlins (previously known as the Florida Marlins) are based in Miami and currently play their games at the Sun Life Stadium. A new stadium is being built for the team but is not yet complete. The Marlins joined the MLB in 1993 and have only made it to the playoffs twice. However, both playoff appearances have lead to the Marlins winning the World Series. Their last World Series victory was in 2003. For information and tickets visit the Marlins website.
College Baseball – Many Florida colleges have college baseball teams, including the UCF Knights mentioned above. In addition to the Knights there are multiple other notable teams in the state of Florida including the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Miami, and the University of South Florida. For information on any of these programs please click the links that have been provided.
Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL) – The Tampa Bay Lightning (often referred to as the Bolts) joined the National Hockey League in 1993. The beginning years were tough on the Lightning, but in 2004 they were able to not only make the playoffs, but win the Stanley Cup. Since then they have had a few very low years, but last year they returned to the playoffs and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals where they were defeated in the final game of the series. The NHL season takes place from October to April and information and tickets can be found online at the Lightning website.
Florida Panthers (NHL) – The Florida Panthers are the second NHL team in the state of Florida, and they are based just outside of the city of Miami. The play their home games at the BankAtlantic Center. The Florida Panthers have made the playoffs three times since their inception in 1992, and have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals once. For more information or to buy tickets you can visit the Florida Panthers website.
Photo Credits: Josh Mallet - Atlanta Braves (photo 1); UCFblog - UCF Arena (photo 2); Keith Allison - Dwight Howard (photo 3); Breeze Baldwin - UCF Knights (photo 4); Jeff Nickel - Orlando City SC (photo 5); Amir Anwar - Arnold Palmer Invitational (photo 6); Chris Gent - Citrus Bowl (photo 7); Kwalk - Amway Arena (photo 8); Bill Farnette - UCF Knights (photo 9)
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"Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world" - Gustave Flaubert