Los Angeles Football Club ticked another box off their club-building project on Wednesday, announcing that they have made a partnership agreement with local USL side Orange County Blues, beginning with the 2017 season.
“We are incredibly excited about this partnership, which will contribute significantly towards our goals of building a competitive roster in 2018 and growing the game here in Southern California. In the OC Blues, we have a fantastic partner with an owner and staff who closely align with our vision to bring world-class professional soccer to Southern California,” said LAFC Executive VP of Soccer Operations John Thorrington in a statement.
"We are thrilled to launch this exciting new era in Orange County soccer with our LAFC affiliation,” said Orange County GM and Executive VP of Soccer Operations Oliver Wyss. “This partnership will significantly enhance the quality of our first team and strengthen the bonds between the two clubs. Together we will expand opportunities for coaching education and focus on all aspects of player development.”
All MLS teams are required to have a presence in USL per the terms of the MLS-USL partnership, enacted in 2013. MLS teams can either have an affiliation with an existing USL side, or create their own USL team. In this case, LAFC is making an affiliation with the Blues, who have been in USL since 2011 and are coming off one of their best seasons. They also have a new owner and are planning to rebrand, likely in time for the 2017 season.
What does the partnership mean for next year? According to the release, LAFC can send players to OC as soon as the 2017 season, despite not hitting the field in MLS until the following year. The arrangement could therefore work similarly to Atlanta United, who sent a handful of signings this year to their USL affiliate, Charleston Battery.
Beyond that, expect the teams to cross-promote each other from time to time in marketing. And this partnership could be a real win for OC, whose attendance in 2016 was dreadful but could make a big jump up if LAFC supporters want to follow local soccer with ties to the MLS side and come to games. For LAFC, there’s the chance to season some prospects and build up the development side of the club’s infrastructure, while indirectly offering live pro soccer for hardcore fans.
Since we’ve been covering both LAFC and the Blues for the past two years, expect to see robust coverage of both sides of this partnership for the foreseeable future here on Angels on Parade.
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