The Columbus Crew announced Thursday 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 in a statement. “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 USL Premier Development League (PDL) 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 are also partners with Dutch Eredivisie side FC Twente.
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“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 in a statement. “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 continued, “On the technical side, we will be adding several good Crew players to our USL PRO team to become a strong team in theleague. 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 are 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.