The Tampa Bay Rowdies announced a landmark historic partnership with Brazilian club São Paulo FC on Tuesday. According to a Rowdies club statement, “today [marks] a historic international partnership, that will strengthen both clubs’ visions of developing youth and professional players in the Americas and abroad.”
“Welcome to the modern era of the Tampa Bay Rowdies,” said principal owner Bill Edwards. “We have a new coach, new players and a practically new stadium where we are undefeated. The Rowdies and the entire NASL are breaking attendance records and we are growing stronger every day. The only way to continue this growth is by associating with the best soccer clubs in the world, and this partnership with São Paulo FC is a clear example of that.”
“I am very happy to be here in St. Petersburg to sign the agreement between both clubs,” said São Paulo FC president Carlos Miguel Aidar. “This is a very important moment for Sao Paulo Futebol Clube as we aim to expand our brand internationally and especially in North America.”
The relationship between the two clubs will eventually develop a multi-platform partnership. This partnership includes opportunities for exhibition matches between both clubs, off-season and mid-season training at São Paulo’s academies, coaching and technical staff exchange programs, and the loan of young players from São Paulo FC to the Rowdies. The original Tampa Bay Rowdies of the earlier NASL (1975-1984) had a similar arrangement with São Paulo FC, which included Rowdies star Perry van der Beck training in Brazil during the NASL offseason. Van der Beck is now the Assistant General Manager and VP of Community Relations for this edition of the Rowdies.
Along with Jacksonville Armada FC and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers hosting Argentina’s Boca Juniors over the next two weeks, this announcement solidifies the North American Soccer League’s position within the South American soccer landscape. Earlier in June, NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony announced that his new club, Puerto Rico FC, will begin play in the NASL in the 2016 Fall Season. Puerto Rico FC will be the NASL’s 13th club after the league recently added Miami FC.
While the addition of both Puerto Rico and Miami are questionable from a viability perspective, the NASL is benefiting from having multiple clubs in Florida that can partner with South American sides. Fort Lauderdale announced a partnership with Corinthians earlier in the year. For much of its existence, Traffic Sports USA claimed they could open doors in Latin America for NASL clubs and players. It seems those doors are being opened after all, but they are happening without the help of the scandal-plagued Brazilian-based sports marketing company.
As time goes on it will be very interesting to see if more NASL sides strike partnership deals with clubs abroad. The NASL model, which in theory is more in line with international norms in the game, might provide a comfortable fit for clubs looking to penetrate the North American market just as São Paulo FC is.
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