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Sporting Kansas City mulling options for new USL PRO affiliation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City are gaining a friendly rival – and losing an affiliation that helped several of their young players gain valuable match experience this year.

But even before Tuesday's announcement that Orlando City SC will be moving up from USL PRO to become MLS' 21st club in 2015, Sporting were already looking at plans for life after the Lions – plans that could involve owning their own lower-tier affiliate club.

“We knew that they were going to be a part of [expansion],” manager and technical director Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We had a two-year setup, knowing this was pretty much going to be the case. We have a few other ideas in mind of what we're doing.”

Whatever course Sporting choose, Vermes said, they want to affiliate with another USL PRO side.

“We've talked to a few other USL teams already,” he said. “We're going to talk to some other teams, too. The other thing is the possibility of owning our own franchise. We thought about that even before the Orlando deal.”

Tulsa, Okla., might seem a likely fit. It's close, it had a team in the old NASL and native son Joe-Max Moore said last month – when he and Vermes were both inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame – that he would like to be involved in the game once again.

“I haven't talked to him, but regionally is where we'd like the team to be,” Vermes said. “I don't know if it would be here in town. I don't know if it would be regional – Tulsa, Omaha, St. Louis. It could be a lot of different places. Again, that doesn't mean we wouldn't be willing to do some affiliations again as well.”

In the meantime, Sporting still have to figure out what Tuesday's announcement means for the second year of the affiliation deal in 2014. Vermes said he would like to continue the deal, which saw five Sporting players loaned to the Lions during the past USL PRO season – including forward Dom Dwyer, who set a league record with 15 goals in 13 matches and scored four times in the USL PRO title game on a one-match return engagement.

“That's our objective here,” Vermes said. “We're actually going to have a conference call on Friday with them, to see what they want to do as well.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.