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Orlando to be awarded Major League Soccer expansion team-source

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Major League Soccer plans to award a new franchise to Orlando on Tuesday, a source told Reuters, setting up a potential future rivalry with Miami where David Beckham recently scouted locations for his own team.

The Orlando City Soccer Club, which has been working to finalize an agreement with MLS, plans to make an announcement on Tuesday, a club official said.

"We can't officially comment yet, but we're obviously having a very, very, very, very, very, very big announcement tomorrow night," Chris Jones, spokesman for Orlando City Soccer, told Reuters. "It's probably a badly kept secret."

MLS had no official comment on Monday.

Last month, city and county officials approved funding for an 18,000-seat, $81 million professional stadium in Orlando's fast-developing downtown entertainment district, which is also home to Amway Arena, the arena of the NBA's Orlando Magic.

Since 2010, Orlando City Soccer has fielded the Orlando City Lions, which competes in the USL Professional Division. The team, two-time champions, averaged almost 9,000 spectators a game and played in the 65,000-seat Citrus Bowl stadium.

An Orlando Major League Soccer team will be one of four expansion teams planned by the league through 2020. One new franchise has already been approved for New York, a partnership between the owners of the New York Yankees baseball team and the owners of British Premier League Manchester City.

Last week, Beckham, who starred as a player at Manchester United, Real Madrid and the MLS club L.A. Galaxy, toured potential stadium sites in Miami for the second time in five months as he moved ahead with his plans to bring a MLS franchise to the city.

The former England captain, who retired from professional soccer earlier this year, plans to exercise an option in his MLS player contract that allows him to create a team for $25 million.

MLS has confirmed the league is in discussions with Beckham, but has yet to receive a formal bid or details of the ownership group and a stadium plan.

(This story has been corrected to say announcement planned on Tuesday not Wednesday)

(Additional reporting by David Adams in Miami; Editing by Kevin Gray)

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