The Columbus Crew today announced that the club has formed an affiliate partnership with Dayton Dutch Lions FC of USL PRO. The agreement between the two Ohio teams enables the Crew to loan a minimum of four players on its Major League Soccer roster to Dayton for the 2014 USL PRO campaign.
“We are proud to unveil our new partnership with Dayton Dutch Lions FC,” said Columbus Crew President Mark McCullers. “We have known the Dutch Lions organization since they came to Ohio. This partnership creates a formal alliance that encompasses player development at its heart but also allows the Columbus Crew to partner with Dayton Dutch Lions FC in growing our respective fan bases and brands.”
Founded in 2009, Dayton Dutch Lions FC played one season in the United Soccer Leagues’ Premier Development League before moving-up a division in time for the merger and creation of USL PRO in 2010, forming the third tier of the American soccer pyramid. Dayton is partners with Dutch Eredivisie side FC Twente. Just as the Black & Gold have become staple colors for the Crew, Dutch Lions FC is easily recognized by its orange uniforms in their home matches in Beavercreek, Ohio.
“The partnership is exciting from both a marketing perspective as well as a technical point of view,” said Dayton Dutch Lions FC President Mike Mossel. “On the marketing side, the Columbus Crew has built a very strong soccer brand in Ohio and has a great group of fans not only in Columbus, but also in Dayton and Cincinnati. The partnership brings recognition, professionalism and opportunities to market both clubs in Ohio.”
Mossel continues, “On the technical side, we will be adding several good Crew players to our USL PRO team to become a strong team in the League. On the other hand, we give talented Crew players a competitive platform to develop themselves and return as better, more experienced players in MLS.“
The Crew becomes the sixth club in MLS to form an affiliate partnership with a USL PRO side, joining the Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, the New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.
The complete list of Crew players to be sent on loan to Dayton will be announced at a later date.
“This affiliation with Dayton is an important step in developing our younger players. We believe it’s beneficial for them to play competitive games at a high level, and this agreement accomplishes that goal for us,” said Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “This move is specifically targeted toward players that we think have a bright future but won’t necessarily see immediate playing time in MLS, or those players that need to recapture their best form. We’re excited about this affiliation, we like the direction Dayton is heading as an organization and believe that this relationship will strengthen our squad.”
USL PRO is a 13-club League in the third tier in the United States soccer pyramid. As part of the partnership between MLS and USL PRO announced in January of 2013, MLS teams have the opportunity to partner with a USL PRO side, sending a minimum of four players to a USL PRO affiliate to develop and gain match experience.
Prior to the agreement between the two clubs, the Crew and Dutch Lions FC competed in matches that counted in Major League Soccer Reserve League play for the Crew and the USL PRO standings for Dayton. With the current agreement, the Crew will not participate in the MLS Reserve League in 2014 and the two teams would only potentially face each other in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup meeting or in a friendly.
“For us this is the one piece that was missing in being a gateway to professional soccer,” said Dayton Dutch Lions FC Head Coach Sid van Druenen. “After we recently added Cincinnati Dutch Lions FC to play in the PDL, we now offer kids a path from playing in our Dayton Academy to PDL, and then for college players to play professionally on three different pro levels: USL PRO, MLS and European football with FC Twente. This will be a big boost for our club across the board, from the professional ranks to our academy teams.”