Orlando City and Barclays Premier League club Stoke City are now affiliated partners.
The Lions announced that they have come together with the English top flight side in a "multi-faceted affiliation initiating a forward-thinking partnership."
"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. "This will be our only partnership in England, and we hope to kindle passions for both our clubs in each other's markets."
Among some of the most important aspects announced for the affiliation, the two clubs will work together on player-exchanging opportunities (helloooo, Geoff Cameron...hey, dare to dream, right?), player scouting and recruitment strategies, as well as cross-promotions to enhance fan experience, with more details to be announced down the road.
Although there was never any actual signs of this affiliation becoming a real thing, it was never hard to imagine Orlando City and Stoke linking up in some way. Not only was Orlando Founder and President Phil Rawlins an owner and director of Stoke for 15 years, but Head Coach Adrian Heath, defender Brek Shea, and former midfielders Anthony Pulis, Lewis Neal, and James O'Connor all have Stoke ties, having played at the club at one time or another.
The two sides also met for a friendly match in Orlando a few summers back in 2012.
So, if anything, this announcement just makes official what we figured might happen all along.
This is obviously a huge move for Orlando City. The club's aim has always been to become a global brand far beyond the United States. Almost two years ago, the club announced a similar strategic partnership with Portuguese giant SL Benfica, an agreement that brought Orlando City both Rafael Ramos and the now-departed Estrela.
The cross-promotion brings them another level of exposure to what already appears to be a decent following across the pond in England, and the player collaborations could be invaluable. This is certainly going to be an interesting thing to watch play out over the coming months/years.