La Liga president Javier Tebas has welcomed a move by Rayo Vallecano to purchase proposed North American Soccer League expansion franchise Oklahoma City FC.
Although nothing has yet been publicly confirmed, widespread reports in Spain have said that Rayo are to buy a majority of shares in the projected Sooner State franchise, and become the first La Liga club to have a controlling interest in a U.S.-based soccer team.
Oklahoma City FC as well as a proposed franchise in Virginia had been announced as planned expansion teams by the NASL in 2015. Oklahoma City, however, has been locked in ownership and rights debates with the city's United Soccer League franchise, Oklahoma Energy, since 2013, according to reports.
Rayo's ownership proposal was greeted with surprise in Spain, as the Madrid-based club have been plagued by financial issues through recent decades. However Tebas said the move into what he called a "strategic market" would prove beneficial. He said he hoped other Spanish clubs followed the example.
"I like what Rayo is doing because it will benefit La Liga," Tebas said. "That the Spanish clubs move themselves to buy franchises in strategic markets, like the U.S. and China, is very good for the league, and will help us to grow."
Rayo's efforts at globalisation in recent years have included sealing a sponsorship deal with Chinese company Qbao, while the team also played a preseason game against Real Sociedad in Nanjing this season, and have signed Chinese player Zhang Chengdong -- something which lead to a public row between the club's first team coach Paco Jemez and sporting director Felipe Minambres after Jemez claimed that the signing was imposed by the sponsor.
Oklahoma City's opponents include the New York Cosmos, where ex-Madrid forward Raul Gonzalez plays, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, where former Brazil international Ronaldo sees action and Miami FC, which is co-owned by one-time Italy and Milan defender Paolo Maldini.
Atletico Madrid were the first La Liga club to own a franchise abroad -- Atletico de Kolkata won the Indian Super League in 2014 and have recently signed Portugal striker Helder Postiga and ex-Eibar winger Javi Lara.