New England Soccer Today

Revs, Sporting CP Join Forces

Photo credit: Sporting Clube de Portugal

Photo credit: Sporting Clube de Portugal

The New England Revolution joined forces with Sporting Clube de Portugal on Wednesday for a multi-year strategic partnership, the first of its kind in the local club’s 18-year history.

The partnership, which was spearheaded by Revolution president Brian Bilello, general manager Michael Burns, and Sporting CP executives, is expected to result in shared expertise, benefit and promotion for each club.

“We’re very excited to partner with a club with such history and prestige as Sporting Club De Portugal,” Bilello said in a team statement 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.”

Sporting, which boasts one of the most prestigious academy systems in the world, has seen the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Nani all pass through its doors. Not surprisingly, one of the primary objectives of the Revolution-Sporting partnership is to promote collaboration on training and development methods for both the clubs’ first teams and youth squads.

Another added benefit of the agreement is the potential for Sporting, which is among the Portuguese Liga’s “Big 3” and is currently competing in the UEFA Champions League, to loan some of its players to New England.

“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,” Burns said in a team statement on Wednesday. “Both clubs have been recognized for our youth development programs, and we’re anticipating a tremendous shared benefit by this partnership.”

The agreement also opens the possibility for both clubs to compete against each other in scheduled friendlies. Of course, many Revolution fans will recall a fierce friendly between the sides in 2004, a match in which the locals won 2-1 but saw three Sporting players sent off.

Meanwhile, one of the most noticeable benefits for Sporting is the ability to expand its brand to Massachusetts, where a number of cites such as New Bedford, Fall River, Hudson, and Ludlow all boast dense Portuguese populations.

Over the past year, Gillette Stadium has hosted Portugal’s National Team twice for international friendlies, and both attracted over 50,000 fans. It was at the most recent friendly that Bilello and Sporting CP executives first entered into discussions about the possibility of a partnership.

Sporting currently sits in seventh place on the Portuguese Liga table after finishing second last season. The Revolution finished third in the Eastern Conference last season, and currently sit in second place.

The Leoes are the second Portuguese Liga side to enter into an agreement with a MLS side. In June, Benfica and Orlando City reached a similar strategic deal.

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