San Antonio FC (USL) and New York City FC (MLS) announced this afternoon that the two clubs will enter into an affiliation for the 2017 season.
It will "result in organizational collaboration for on and off the field initiatives" including potential loans from NYCFC. This is the first season that San Antonio will have such an agreement, having played their inaugural year without one. The former Wilmington Hammerheads were NYCFC's first affiliate from 2015 to their leaving the league after the 2016 season.
Currently in the USL there are 12 clubs that are affiliated with MLS teams and 10 USL teams that are directly owned by their parent MLS club. This leaves 8 USL teams without any MLS affiliation. MLS reached an agreement with USL in early 2013 to integrate the former MLS Reserve League with the USL (USL Pro at the time). And while many in the SAFC community will be questioning why the club has decided to do this, there are several advantages to working with MLS via the affiliation model.
"This affiliation, we believe, strengthens us." - Tim Holt
First and foremost, this relationship will be mutually beneficial for the front offices of both clubs. City Football Group, the parent entity of NYCFC, will be able to watch and learn from arguably the most well-run sports organization in North America, if not the entire world - Spurs Sports & Entertainment. The success on and off the court for the Spurs is directly related to the ownership and leadership model, tactics, and execution which has led to 5 NBA titles and multiple record-breaking streaks that are unmatched in professional sports in America over the past two decades. On the flip side, San Antonio will now have the ability to take best practices from NYCFC from a soccer business standpoint. NYCFC is beginning their third year in MLS, coming off their first post-season appearance in 2016.
Second, San Antonio's agreement with a MLS club can only be seen as advantageous for its prospects of landing a future MLS franchise. It's quite possible, though purely speculative, that MLS had deemed this as necessary for San Antonio's MLS bid that was submitted just over a week ago. We've also seen SAFC expand its academy program which was accepted into USSF Development Academy system. These two milestones definitely look favorable as SAFC applies for MLS.
Ultimately though this doesn't change the independence of San Antonio FC. SAFC is "not a reserve team or exist just to develop someone else's players" said Tim Holt, Managing Director of San Antonio FC. The club will continue to participate in the U.S. Open Cup this year like all other independent clubs. The agreement is more about the front offices working together and learning from each other, while the club will continue its quest for a USL championship on the field in 2017.
What are your thoughts on the agreement? Leave your comments below!
San Antonio FC & the USL
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