KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Sporting Kansas City announced on Friday that the club has renewed its agreement with OKC Energy FC to serve as the team's exclusive USL PRO affiliate with a multi-year extension.
"The first year of our partnership was beneficial to both organizations in many ways," Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. "The professionalism within the club, from the quality of coaching to the investment by their ownership in new facilities, makes OKC Energy FC a perfect partner for us and an ideal destination for our players to continue their development. We're looking forward to again helping one another find success both on and off the field."
"Extending our affiliation with Sporting Kansas City is affirmation we are on the right course to continue our success with Energy FC in Oklahoma City," said Energy FC co-owner Bob Funk, Jr. "In addition to providing head coach Jimmy Nielsen with quality players, the Energy FC staff can learn best practices from the business and operations perspective from one of the most well-respected franchises in Major League Soccer. We can apply the knowledge we gain from our association from Sporting KC to lay a foundation for our ultimate goal of one day having an MLS team in Oklahoma City."
OKC Energy FC were named USL PRO's Rookie Franchise of the Year in 2014, winning the award over USL PRO champions Sacramento Republic FC and third-place finishers LA Galaxy II.
Sporting Kansas City sent five players on loan to OKC Energy FC over the course of the 2014 campaign and, along with new Brazilian partner Fluminense FC, will again foster loan agreements between the clubs during the 2015 USL PRO season.
In 2015, USL PRO will add 12 expansion clubs and OKC Energy FC will move into a brand new training facility and recently renovated home stadium. Taft Stadium is in the midst of a $12 million upgrade while OKC Energy FC also announced plans last month to partner with the Oklahoma City City-County Health Department to develop a multi-field practice complex scheduled to open this summer.
Nielsen, whose contract with OKC Energy FC was extended through the 2017 season, was a club captain and MLS Cup champion during four seasons with Sporting Kansas City (2010-2013). The team's roster also featured three former Sporting KC players (Kyle Miller, Cyprian Hedrick and Michael Thomas) in 2014, as well as 19-year-old Sporting KC Academy product David Leichty.
In addition to player loans, the two clubs will collaborate on other business endeavors such as shared facility access, mutual cooperation between technical staffs, youth soccer initiatives, stadium support, marketing opportunities and fan experience consultation.
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.
Eleven MLS clubs were affiliated with USL PRO sides in 2014 and an additional five MLS teams will enter into affiliations for the upcoming season.