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Orlando City SC and English Premier League side Stoke City FC have entered a multi-faceted affiliation initiating a forward-thinking partnership, the clubs announced today. The affiliation will ignite shared brand awareness and collaboration opportunities across business and competition levels for both sides.
The Citys will work together on player-exchange opportunities, accessibility to shared scouting and player-recruitment systems as well as cross-promotional opportunities to enhance fan experiences. Details of an official marketing campaign will be released at a later date.
“It was very clear that we’ve always had a good relationship with Stoke City and it came down to us wanting to reignite that synergy and bring our clubs closer together,” added Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins (pictured above left.) “This relationship works across all our teams, from MLS, to OCB through to the Pride and even the academies. As a result we hope to kindle passions for both our clubs in each other’s markets.”
Stoke City is the second oldest professional soccer club in the world with 153 years of existence. The Potter’s recent successes, including reaching the 2011 FA Cup final and establishing itself as a top 10 team in one of soccer’s top leagues, have been aided by their exceptional scouting network – recruiting the talents of Austrian national team striker Marko Arnautović, England national team goalkeeper Jack Butland, Dutch national team defender Erik Pieters, United States Men’s National Team defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron and French midfielder Giannelli Imbula.
“It will help both clubs with player development, player improvement and best working practices. Additionally Stoke will be coming to Orlando for ten days for pre-season in the Summer,” said Stoke CEO Tony Scholes (pictured above right.)
The link between both sides goes back to the Lions’ roots. Rawlins spent 15 years as an owner and director of Stoke City, and head coach Adrian Heath began his career with the Potters, registering 95 appearances between 1979 and 1982. Additionally, Orlando’s starting left-back Brek Shea, Orlando City B’s head coach Anthony Pulis, captain Lewis Neal and former Orlando City standout James O’Connor played for Stoke City.
Both teams have also met in the past, when the Potters visited the Lions for a friendly on July 28, 2012 and the clubs will now meet again on 27th July 2016 as part of the new partnership.
Orlando City’s partnership with Portuguese team S.L. Benfica, which provided the Lions with one of Major League Soccer’s most promising players, Rafael Ramos, remains a strong part of the Club. The 21-year-old defender, who recently signed a new deal with the Lions, ranks fourth in City’s MLS history in minutes logged with 2628, and has registered four assists.
“This partnership will strengthen our network in Europe” added Rawlins and he continued “We will only have one partner in England and effectively, this now says to any other club “Thank you, but we already have a great partner””
Boasting a strong tourism economy with over 66 million visitors to Orlando last year, the new affiliation with Stoke City will also create stronger ties to the United Kingdom, who rank second to Canada as the largest group of international visitors to the City Beautiful.