The New England Revolution became the latest MLS team to align with a foreign club on Wednesday as they announced a strategic partnership with Sporting Lisbon, which boasts one of the world's most renowned academies.
The international partnership is the first of its kind in Revolution history and is expected to result in shared expertise and promotion for both clubs.
"We're very excited to partner with a club with such history and prestige as Sporting Clube De Portugal," Revolution president Brian Bilello said in a team release on Wednesday. "The opportunity to not only partner on activities to improve our first team, but also to work with their prestigious academy on youth development, will benefit our club for many years. We will also assist Sporting in their efforts to explore opportunities to increase Sporting's reach within the United States, both on and off the field."
The partnership will allow the Revolution to bring in players from Sporting on loan, as well as giving both sides the opportunity to share scouting resources. According to the Revolution, the primary focus of the partnership is to promote collaboration on training and development methods for both clubs' first teams and youth squads.
The potential benefits for the Revolution are clear. The Portuguese club's academy has fostered the development of such stars as Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Nani. The partnership should enhance the Revolution's own youth academy, which has already received its fair share of national accolades in recent years.
"Sporting has been one of the most consistent and successful programs in Europe, and we're looking forward to working with their staff to share best practices, player talent and scouting resources," Revolution general manager Michael Burns said in a team release. "Both clubs have been recognized for our youth development programs, and we're anticipating a tremendous shared benefit by this partnership."
Additionally, the agreement opens the possibility for friendly matches between both clubs' first-team squads. In 2004, the Revolution claimed a 2-1 win over Sporting in a particularly fierce exhibition at Gillette Stadium that saw three Sporting players dismissed.
Meanwhile, the agreement with the Revolution will allow Sporting to expand its brand in an area of the country that boasts a sizable Portuguese population. Over the past year, Gillette Stadium has hosted Portugal's national team twice for international friendlies, with both matches drawing in excess of 50,000 fans.
The Revolution and Sporting first explored the possibility of a partnership during Portugal's latest visit in early June. Bilello and other members of New England's front office met with Sporting executives prior to the June 6 World Cup warm-up between Portugal and Mexico at Gillette Stadium.
As runners-up in last season's Portuguese Liga, Sporting qualified for this season's Champions League, where they currently sit at the bottom of Group G through two matches.