Orange County SC have made an agreement with LA Wolves FC to be official affiliates, as announced by the clubs on Tuesday. The agreement, billed a “strategic player development alliance,” will provide Wolves FC players a path to pro deals through Orange County SC, while LA Wolves will get “financial incentives” for transfer rights to those players.
LA Wolves FC are one of the founding teams of the UPSL, which has gone from a small regional league in Southern California to a national league in the span of just a few years. OCSC and LA Wolves have in fact faced each other in competition, in the U.S. Open Cup in successive years, with Wolves FC winning in a penalty shootout in 2016 and Orange County winning 1-0 the following year.
“We are excited to partnering with the L.A. Wolves FC as part of our ‘pathway to professional’ model,” said Orange County SC general manager Oliver Wyss in a statement. “There are many talented amateur players in the UPSL that we want to provide the opportunity to be part of the professional environment at Orange County SC and dream of playing in the highest levels of soccer in the U.S. and abroad. L.A. Wolves have been at the forefront of discovering talented local players and I believe this partnership will add a very important step, that is currently missing, in the Southern California player development structure.”
At one point, it was thought that LA Wolves would become the base of the planned California United NASL team that was supposed to begin in 2018. But with that league on a hiatus, if not folded for good, that pro team didn’t launch, Cal United spun off to make a UPSL team of its own, and LA Wolves apparently went back to looking at how to provide a path to the pros.
“The L.A. Wolves have produced many top, local players over the years. Many of those players have moved on from the club to sign professional contracts both oversees and domestically. Typically the player has had to navigate his way around to create that opportunity on the professional side, but now that process has been simplified. It’s time now that we streamline this process with professional connectivity for our players with this dynamic affiliation agreement with OCSC,” said LA Wolves president Yan Skwara. “...Orange County SC will provide L.A. Wolves players with a true “pathway to pro” opportunity with the OCSC’s first team when our player is ready to take that next step and we will vet that process extensively on our side in terms of only sending players that are ready for pro level play. Getting our players to the next level has always been our role as a a club and will continue to be our our role as a club,” he continued.
Skwara also noted that squad players for Orange County will have a chance to play for LA Wolves to get some playing time. “Similarly, OCSC reserve players will be given opportunities to develop further in the UPSL with L.A. Wolves FC in certain cases and to keep playing time and game conditioning on point.”
So we’ll see how this develops, but it could be the start of a new kind of partnership for both clubs.
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