ORLANDO, Fla.—Orlando City (USL PRO) and Sporting Kansas City (Major League Soccer) are proud to announce a two-year partnership on Wednesday, with the Lions becoming the official USL PRO affiliate of Sporting KC. The landmark agreement made by the two clubs kicks off an important stepping stone in the U.S. soccer pyramid, with MLS reserve players to be integrated into USL PRO play beginning in 2013.
“We are excited to begin our partnership with one of the greatest MLS brands, Sporting KC,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins. “We believe the integration of USL and MLS will go down as an important day in the history of the American soccer pyramid.”
Starting with an announcement earlier today via the two leagues, MLS teams now have the chance to partner with USL PRO clubs. As an official affiliate, Orlando City will retain a minimum of four Sporting KC players for development throughout the USL PRO regular season. Those players would then get playing time, in preparation to be called up by their MLS club. The four reserve players Sporting will send to Orlando for the 2013 season have not yet been announced.
Both clubs are known to be top-level organizations within their respective leagues, making for a logical partnership.
Sporting Kansas City began developing a strong relationship with Orlando City Soccer Club during the team's 2012 pre-season trip to Orlando, where the team will return next month for the 2013 Disney Pro Soccer Classic. The teams met in the Third Round of the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Sporting Park and have remained in regular communication over the last several months for opportunities to develop a more meaningful professional partnership.
In addition to providing loan opportunities for select Sporting Kansas City reserve players, the technical staffs from both teams will collaborate on several initiatives including joint coaching seminars, business endeavors, scouting mechanisms and access to facilities. These efforts would strive to be mutually beneficial for both clubs and serve to build upon the foundation that has been established.
"We are fortunate Orlando City has agreed to partner with us in this new, groundbreaking opportunity. They are a class club and this will be a great partnership for both organizations," Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes said. "It will provide beneficial opportunities for our players to develop within a competitive environment for a tremendous organization and fanbase. Together, our shared vision for this affiliation made it easy for us to enter into the opportunity."
Beginning this season, each USL PRO team will play two (2) inter-league games against a single MLS Reserve League opponent, except Antigua (two different opponents). It is anticipated that over half of the games at the MLS opponent will be played in their primary venue (Red Bull Arena, Jeld-Wen Field, Pizza Hut Park, etc.) and in several cases as part of a doubleheader with the MLS “first team” game on the same date.