Sporting Kansas City announced on Friday a formal partnership with Brazilian club Fluminense FC that extends through 2016 that will directly facilitate cooperation between the two clubs for player loans/transfers, academy exchanges and commercial opportunities.
"When we started the initial discussions of forming a partnership with a club outside of the United States, we were looking for a very specific set of qualities and opportunities,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. “We did not want this to be a marketing ploy. We wanted this to be beneficial for both clubs on the business and technical side.
“After meeting with Fluminense several times since the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in February, we realized that they were a perfect fit. We were aware of their club tradition and ability to produce world-class talent, but it was the common philosophy and vision shared between both clubs’ management that drove this partnership. We think there are many business practices that each club can share to better the other club promoting a win-win scenario on and off the field. Through this partnership, we'll be able to send players down to Brazil to gain additional experience and Fluminense will be able to do the same with us."
As part of the affiliation, Fluminense FC agrees to loan at least one player per MLS season to Sporting Kansas City. Fluminense FC will also loan other players to Sporting KC’s USL PRO affiliate(s). These loan moves will serve to further develop and showcase the players in the international market, while exposing them to a new culture and style of play.
In addition, Fluminense FC and Sporting Kansas City will collaborate on the exchange of youth players, academy staff and training/coaching methodologies over the course of the partnership. This alliance will provide opportunities for players within each team’s youth development system to live, train and compete abroad within the Academy system at the partner club.
“Player development, training opportunities and coaching education all feed into our core mission and this partnership with Fluminense FC will be of great benefit in all of these areas,” Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said. “This partnership will provide access to another level of curriculum and will continue to help us become the best developmental organization in the United States.”
Each club has also committed to hosting an international friendly between the two teams inside their home venue and providing access to training facilities for pre-season visits. Founded in 1902, Fluminense FC plays their home matches at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The venue opened in time to host eight matches during the 1950 FIFA World Cup and most recently served as the site for seven games during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, including the final between Argentina and Germany last month.
“We continuously invested in our presence in the North American market over the last two years in search of a strategic partnership,” said Fluminense’s president Peter Siemsen. “I believe our goals and communication are very well aligned. We could not be any more pleased with this association for our brand.”
Fluminense has twice won the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A in the past five seasons and has now secured four league titles in club history (1970, 1984, 2010 and 2012). Outside of league play, Fluminense won the club’s first Copa do Brasil in 2007 and also reached the finals of Copa Libertadores (2008) and Copa Sudamericana (2009) in back-to-back seasons. Most recently, Fluminense has qualified and competed in three out of the last four Copa Libertadores tournaments (2011-2013).
As one of the world’s leading soccer development academies, Fluminense’s Youth Academy has produced international stars such as Rafael (Manchester United), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain) and Marcelo (Real Madrid). The latter two were teammates for Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup alongside Fluminense FC forward Fred, who scored goals in both the 2006 and 2014 World Cup tournaments.
Sporting Kansas City, founded in 1995 as an inaugural member of Major League Soccer, has claimed two League championships in the team’s 19-year history (2000, 2013). The club is also a two-time winner of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (2004, 2012) and secured the Supporters’ Shield in 2000.
Launched in 2007, the Sporting KC Academy features four youth development teams providing a professional environment for players in the Under-12 thru Under-18 age levels and has partnered with 11 Academy Affiliates spanning six states within the Sporting Club Network. Four Academy products are currently on Sporting Kansas City’s senior team roster, including United States Youth National Team members Jon Kempin (21) and Erik Palmer-Brown (17).
Sporting KC faced Fluminense’s Under-23 squad at the 2014 Disney Pro Soccer Classic in February. Among the players to feature for Fluminense in the fixture was Brazilian Under-20 Men’s National Team defender Igor Juliao, who was then acquired by Sporting KC in April on loan for the 2014 season. Juliao has started each of the team’s last 15 MLS matches and provided the game-winning assist in a 2-1 victory at Columbus on July 16.
Alongside Julião, Fluminense's roster featured four additional Brazilian Youth National Team selections at the Disney Pro Classic. Among Brazilian clubs, Fluminense FC currently contributes the most Under-20 Men's National Team players of any team.
“This is a testimony to our excellent scouting and development work at Xerem (Fluminense’s Academy, located 45 minutes from downtown Rio de Janeiro),” said Fluminense Football Director Marcelo Teixeira. “We have today at the academy an abundance of talented players competing in a very narrow funnel. This partnership is ideal to broaden their opportunities for growth and exposure.”