Sporting KC

Sporting Club releases plans for USL team, Swope Park Rangers

In September 2013, Sporting Kansas City loaned its young scoring prospect to Orlando City SC, offering him a chance to play in a competitive championship match. A couple of days later, Dom Dwyer responded with four goals, lifting Orlando City to the USL Pro championship.

And by now you probably know how the rest of the story played out — Dwyer established a new Sporting KC single-season scoring record the following year, crediting a portion of his development to his time on loan.

In the future, the club’s minor league team will be based in Kansas City.

Sporting Club unveiled plans Thursday to launch a United Soccer League team — the Swope Park Rangers — that will begin play in 2016 at Swope Park.

“It gives us an opportunity to see those guys on an everyday basis and how they’re progressing,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “When they’re in Oklahoma or Orlando, you don’t see them every day. You can’t have that interaction. You can’t monitor them. All of those things are really important based on development.”

The USL and MLS first partnered in 2013, and Sporting KC has held partnerships with Orlando City SC and OKC Energy FC. Five different players currently on the Sporting KC roster have spent time with USL teams — Dwyer, Jimmy Medranda, Mikey Lopez, Jon Kempin and Kevin Ellis. Dwyer and Ellis have become full-time starters with Sporting KC.

In essence, the Swope Park Rangers — the 30th team to join the USL in its sixth season — will offer Sporting KC a bridge between its growing academy and its senior team. The teams will train next to each other on a daily basis and share philosophies, Vermes said, adding that the Rangers’ coach will be announced over the ensuing month.

The Swope Park Rangers’ name, announced Thursday by general manager Kurt Austin, is drawn from Sporting Kansas City’s old reserve team in 2008. Its logo will mimic Sporting KC’s shield.

The Swope Park Rangers’ roster will be constructed with top-level academy players, fringe senior-team players and players signed directly to the USL team — with the majority of the moves expected to be made by Sporting KC assistant technical director Mike Jacobs. The team will hold open tryouts at Swope Soccer Village on Nov. 21-22.

Similar to a minor-league system, players from the Swope Park Rangers’ roster will be available to advance to the senior team. That could have been a particularly useful tool for Sporting KC over the past two seasons, when the club dealt with a myriad of injuries.

Asked what current players would fit into that role, Vermes offered several examples.

“This would’ve been fantastic for a guy like Erik Palmer-Brown,” he said. “He was so young. He had to finish high school here. I couldn’t loan him out anywhere because he had to finish high school. So he would’ve had the opportunity to play with the Swope Park Rangers. He would’ve gotten the gains that we were looking for him to get in an environment that would’ve been extremely competitive.”

Sporting KC is the 11th MLS club to add a USL team.