When Oklahoma City’s newest soccer team, OKC Energy FC, takes the field in 2014, it will have a little assist from Sporting Kansas City.
On Friday, Sporting KC announced a one-year affiliate agreement with the USL Pro expansion team. The club also announced that former captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen would join Energy FC as its first coach.
Sporting KC will have two affiliate clubs next year; Orlando City is in the second year of a two-year agreement. Last month, it was announced that Orlando City will join Major League Soccer for the 2015 season.
A minimum of two players will be loaned to each team throughout the 2014 season as part of the agreement.
During the 2013 season, Kansas City loaned six players to the Orlando City Lions, including forward Dom Dwyer, who led the league with 15 goals in 13 games. He was also the MVP of the USL Pro championship.
Energy FC, owned by Prodigal LLC, joined the league in July. It was announced earlier this week that Tulsa will also have a team joining the USL Pro in 2015.
“OKC Energy FC provides us with a great regional partner, and having Jimmy Nielsen as the head coach will give us strong insight into player development,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a statement.
“We are pleased to affiliate with Sporting KC during our first season of play,” said Prodigal CEO Bob Funk Jr. in a release. “Our partnership with them in this endeavor is groundbreaking. This relationship starts with Jimmy Nielsen as our head coach and a number of quality players that Sporting KC will provide, but also extends beyond the field of play and into all of our soccer business interests for the long term.”
Nielsen retired after his 19-year playing career ended with the MLS Cup championship.
“My family and I are excited to take on this new challenge and I look forward to the start of my coaching career in Oklahoma City,” Nielsen said. “To remain a part of the Sporting Kansas City family and to take some of what I have learned from all of my coaches over the years, including Peter Vermes and staff, is an opportunity I embrace.”
The USL Pro, the third tier of American soccer, will feature 14 teams in the 2014 season. It will be the second year of the league’s partnership with Major League Soccer. D.C. United (Richmond Kickers), New England Revolution (Rochester Rhinos), Philadelphia Union (Harrisburg City Islanders) and Houston Dynamo (Pittsburgh Riverhounds) will be affiliated next year.
Sporting KC is the only MLS team with two affiliates.