Sporting Kansas City announced today that they have entered into a "strategic partnership" with Brazilian club, Fluminense FC. The Brazilian club is the home club of current on loan defender, Igor Juliao. Based on the announcement, this is something that Sporting has been looking to do for at least a little while. According to head coach Peter Vermes, the team was looking for some very specific qualities and opportunities. Basically the team didn't want to get into a one sided partnership with a club where there wasn't a lot of give from the other team, and Sporting was giving up a lot.
As part of the partnership, Fluminense will loan at least one player to KC per MLS season for the length of the deal, which runs through 2016. Juliao has been good at times, and also frustrating as well so far during his season on loan with Kansas City. They will also loan players to Sporting KC's USL Pro affiliates. Currently that is the Oklahoma City Energy and Orlando City (although Orlando City is moving to MLS next year). Interestingly, OKC is not mentioned by name in the release, it just says KC's USL Pro affiliate.
The teams will also work together, exchanging youth players, academy staff and training/coaching methodologies in the partnership. Academy players will get the opportunity to live, train, and compete abroad in the other team's academy system.
The teams have also agreed to each host the other for an international friendly at their home venue and allow the other team to use their training facilities for preseason visits.
While this all sounds good, and has me excited for the partnership, I am also a little leery about the partnership. The reason? We've heard plenty of this before. Back in 2007, the then Kansas City Wizards announced a partnership with Club Atlas of the Mexican league. There were promises of player exchanges, annual home and away friendlies, and using the other team's facilities. All that came of that was Kansas City training there during the 2009 preseason, and then a friendly in 208 at Community America Ballpark that saw Kansas City win 2-1. During that time Atlas trained at Sporting's training facility in Swope Park as part of their preseason preparations. No player exchanges ever occurred, although there were a few rumors in Mexican media about players.
So I'll remain cautiously optimistic about this until I see results. I do like that there is a guarantee of player movement coming in, but there are still questions. I know that KC ownership has learned from the Atlas experience and that's why it's been so long since the team had a partnership with a foreign club.