Orlando City SC announced its fourth club partnership today and its first partnership specifically for both its men’s and women’s teams. VfL Wolfsburg, with teams in both the Bundesliga and Frauen-Bundesliga, is the newest partner club, joining S.L. Benfica, Stoke City, and Clube Atlético Paranaense in Portugal, England, and Brazil, respectively.
“This is a fantastic addition for Orlando City SC as we enter our fifth season in MLS and fourth in the NWSL,” said Niki Budalic, General Manager of Orlando City SC. “We enter 2019 with a solid understanding of where we’ve been and where we want to be and are confident this partnership with VfL Wolfsburg will be mutually beneficial as it continues to grow.
Through the partnership, the clubs will share information on both the men and women’s side, and their respective youth academies will also trade best practices. This sharing will not only benefit the soccer side of things, but also various business lines. This will work much in the same as previous partnerships. OCB’s coach and general manager recently visited Paranaense and former Lions head coach Jason Kreis spent time with the Brazilian club last off-season.
The Lions have had mixed success so far with their foreign partnerships. The Benfica partnership is the oldest, starting in 2014, and yielded loans of defender Rafa Ramos and midfielder Estrela as far back as the club’s final season in the USL. Both players moved up with OCSC to Major League Soccer but Estrela wasn’t used in league play and left the team in 2015. Ramos bounced between MLS and the USL before being traded to Chicago prior to the 2018 season and was subsequently released by the Fire to return to Europe, where he currently plays for Dutch side FC Twente.
Orlando nearly had a deal in place with Stoke City defender Dionatan Teixeira in 2016 but he didn’t pass his physical and instead the Lions turned toward a loan deal for Jose Aja that summer. In March of 2017, the Lions added defender Leo Pereira on loan from Clube Atlético Paranaense to USL side OCB, and the Brazilian was subsequently loaned to the senior team after a few good outings with the reserve team.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the partnership is on the women’s side, where Wolfsburg is a regular participant in the UEFA Champions League. The Pride could potentially gain a lot from such a partnership in terms of player scouting and acquisitions.
“VfL Wolfsburg is a world-class organization that understands the intricate needs of clubs running both men and women’s teams, values diversity and understands the importance of building culture within an organization - three qualities that are at the core of our business,” Budalic added.
Pride midfielder Emily van Egmond played with the German club in 2016-2017.
“We have high hopes for this inaugural partnership with an MLS club,” said Marcel Schäfer, sporting director for VfL Wolfsburg. “We intend to lend our expertise in all areas, but we can also learn a lot from how U.S. clubs are structured. I was able to experience first-hand how professional and creative the Americans are during my time in the USA. We’re delighted to be working with Orlando City and Orlando Pride. Having a top-quality women’s team isn’t the only similarity between the two clubs. Both are passionate about diversity, fighting discrimination and inclusion for all fans.
Along with Orlando City’s recent hire of Ricardo Moreira as the club’s director of scouting, this is a positive step. By sharing information on both the men’s and women’s side with Wolfsburg, the club can improve both programs and gain valuable player information. Hopefully Moreira will be able to leverage information and player evaluations from all of Orlando’s partner clubs to improve the on-field product of both the men’s and women’s teams for years to come.