ORLANDO, Fla.— Orlando City SC announced on Friday that USL PRO expansion club OKC Energy FC will join the Lions as affiliates of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Sporting Kansas City for the 2014 season. A minimum of two Sporting Kansas City players will be loaned to each USL PRO team throughout the season as part of the agreements.
“As we head into our final USL PRO season in 2014, Orlando City is pleased to continue our affiliation with Sporting KC,” Orlando City President Phil Rawlins said. “’I firmly believe this partnership was an important part of both clubs’ on-field success in winning its respective league championships last season. Orlando City is proud to be part of this terrific player development initiative jointly established by Major League Soccer and USL PRO.”
USL PRO will feature 14 teams for the 2014 season with the addition of OKC Energy FC and Sacramento. In 2013, USL PRO and Major League Soccer began a partnership to enhance the development of professional players in North America, strengthen the competition in both leagues and establish a solid foundation for future collaboration.
Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City SC became affiliates in January as both clubs were crowned champions of their respective leagues in the first of a two-year partnership. Sporting Kansas City loaned six players to the Lions throughout the 2013 season, including forward Dom Dwyer who set the league’s scoring record with 15 goals in 13 games and was named the USL PRO championship MVP with four goals in the final.
Orlando City SC was awarded the 21st MLS expansion slot in November, with the club set to play in the major leagues in Spring 2015.
OKC Energy FC is owned by Prodigal LLC, led by CEO Bob Funk, Jr., and was announced as a USL PRO expansion team in July. Former Sporting Kansas City Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen will serve as the head coach of OKC Energy FC in their expansion season. Nielsen recently retired after a 19-year playing career that culminated with an MLS Cup Championship at Sporting Park.
“We are pleased to affiliate with Sporting KC during our first season of play,” said Prodigal CEO Bob Funk Jr. “Our partnership with them in this endeavor is groundbreaking. This relationship starts with Jimmy Nielsen as our head coach and a number of quality players that Sporting KC will provide, but also extends beyond the field of play and into all of our soccer business interests for the long term.”
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