On January 23, 2013, USL PRO and MLS announced a historic partnership aimed at advancing player development through a variety of coaching collaborations and player loan deals between the two leagues. A year to the day later, the San Jose Earthquakes announced a affiliate partnership with the Sacramento Republic FC for the 2014 season.
In a concurrent announcement, Republic FC also entered into an affiliation agreement with the Portland Timbers, making the newly formed USL PRO side a partner of two MLS teams. Each agreement is for a one-year duration.
The partnership calls for the Quakes to send a minimum of two players on loan to Sacramento for the upcoming USL PRO season. As part of the agreement, San Jose retains the option to recall its players at any point during the season when necessary. The affiliation deal with Republic FC will also spell the end of the Earthquakes participation in the 2014 MLS Reserve League.
Earthquakes team president Dave Kaval was quoted in a club statement:
"We are excited to team up with Republic FC as our USL PRO affiliate. Establishing a USL PRO affiliation is a critical step in our continued investment in player development that includes our Academy, our PDL team, and our homegrown player efforts. Beyond the player development benefits, we feel that it is important to help develop professional soccer in Sacramento with an eye to eventually making it a home of its very own MLS team."
Coming a day after the Earthquakes officially signed Tommy Thompson to the club's first homegrown player contract, the partnership could provide the Sacramento area native a place to go out on loan during his first year as a professional. And given his place on the depth chart behind the more veteran forwards on the Quakes roster, Adam Jahn, a native of nearby Davis, could also see time with the California capital club.
In previous reports regarding the possibility of the Quakes affiliating with Sacramento, it appeared as if Republic FC was leaning toward making Portland its sole partner. San Jose, which geographically seems to be a better fit than the Timbers, was said to be opposed to Portland's interest and lobbied to block any deal with the Oregon team. Today's announcement serves to resolve those differences as both MLS clubs will have the opportunity to work with Sacramento, at least for the 2014 season.
Sacramento Republic FC technical director Graham Smith said on the club's official Twitter account:
"The fact we're able to affiliate with two clubs says something about the ownership in Sacramento as well as how MLS sees us."
Sacramento Republic FC was formed as a USL PRO expansion franchise in late 2012 and is slated to start its inaugural season in 2014. The club does not have a home field secured but hopes to play in a 8,000-seat facility at the Cal Expo grounds pending approval vote scheduled for late January. The team will be coached by former Chivas USA and Toronto head coach Preki.