Sporting Kansas City announced on Friday that the 2013 MLS Cup Champion will partner with a second USL PRO team affiliate - Oklahoma City Energy FC - for the 2014 season, in addition to Orlando City SC, and also that expansion Energy FC will be coached by former Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Nielsen launches a new career
Nielsen unexpectedly retired from his 19-year career after leading Sporting KC to win 2013 MLS Cup earlier this month.
"My family and I are excited to take on this new challenge and I look forward to the start of my coaching career in Oklahoma City," Nielsen said. "To remain a part of the Sporting Kansas City family and to take some of what I have learned from all of my coaches over the years, including Peter Vermes and staff, is an opportunity I embrace."
A minimum of two Sporting Kansas City players will be loaned to each USL PRO team throughout the season as part of the agreements with the two teams.
USL PRO will feature 14 teams for the 2014 season with the addition of OKC Energy FC and Sacramento. In 2013, USL PRO and Major League Soccer began a partnership to better develop professional players in North America and establish a solid foundation for future collaboration.
Orlando City SC is MLS-bound
OKC Energy FC is owned by Prodigal LLC, led by CEO Bob Funk, Jr., and was announced as a USL PRO expansion team in July.
"OKC Energy FC provides us with a great, regional partner and having Jimmy Nielsen as the head coach will give us strong insight into player development," Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. "We will continue to have our wonderful relationship with Orlando City SC and adding OKC Energy FC to next year's plan perfectly aligns us with our goal of keeping players active and ready to integrate back with our first team to contribute in all of the competitions we will play in 2014."
Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City SC became affiliates in January and both clubs were crowned champions of their respective leagues in the first of a two-year partnership. Sporting KC loaned six players to the Lions throughout the 2013 season, including forward Dom Dwyer who set the league's scoring record with 15 goals in 13 games and was named the USL PRO championship MVP with four goals in the final.
Orlando City SC was awarded an MLS expansion team last month and will join MLS as the 21st club for the 2015 season.