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Sporting KC, Fluminense FC agree to partnership

AP - Sports

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City and Brazilian powerhouse Fluminense FC have agreed to a partnership that encompasses player transfers, academy and coaching exchanges, and other business opportunities that include a pair of international friendlies.

Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said Friday the clubs had been discussing a partnership since February, but neither wanted it to be a ''marketing ploy.'' Instead, the clubs wanted to form a collaboration that would help each other on the field and in the coffers.

''We realized that they were a perfect fit,'' Vermes said. ''We were aware of their club tradition and ability to produce world-class talent, but it was the common philosophy and vision shared between both clubs' management that drove this partnership.''

Each club will play in the other's venue - Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro and Sporting Park in suburban Kansas City - and provide access to training facilities for preseason visits.

Fluminense will also loan at least one player per MLS season to Sporting KC and other players to the MLS club's USL PRO affiliates. The moves are designed to develop and showcase the players on the international market while also exposing them to new styles of play.

The clubs will also collaborate on youth academy programs and coaching exchanges.

''We continuously invested in our presence in the North American market over the last two years in search of a strategic partnership,'' Fluminense's president Peter Siemsen said in a statement. ''I believe our goals and communication are very well aligned. We could not be any more pleased with this association for our brand.''

Sporting KC faced Fluminense's under-23 squad at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in February. Among the players to feature for Fluminense in the fixture was Brazilian under-20 national team defender Igor Juliao, who was acquired on loan by Sporting KC in April.

Juliao has started each of the club's last 15 MLS matches.

''Player development, training opportunities and coaching education all feed into our core mission and this partnership with Fluminense FC will be of great benefit in all of these areas,'' said Robb Heineman, chief executive of Sporting KC's parent organization Sporting Club. ''This partnership will provide access to another level of curriculum and will continue to help us become the best developmental organization in the United States.''

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