Who new that City Football Group liked North Carolina barbecue? On Friday, NYCFC announced that they had struck a partnership agreement with USL Pro side the Wilmington Hammerheads.
The Hammerheads have been in existence since 1996 and have a pretty strong history in the lower levels of US Soccer. They won the USL Pro Select Championship in 2003 and were a finalist in the USL Pro Championship in 2012.
The agreement between Wilmington and NYCFC is a one year deal.
Having a relationship with a lower division team or their own team is a critical asset for any MLS side. There are currently 8 MLS teams with their own USL Pro side with 10 teams having affiliation agreements with Pro teams.From an NYCFC perspective this is a win-win situation. The club is still in just its first season and are still finding and locating young players to build upon. They do not have the players yet to field their own squad. So having an agreement with an already established team like the Hammerheads makes sense.
In the future, the club will need to find out if it wants to continue having a relationship with a USL Pro side or if they want to strike out on their own. One wrinkle to keep an eye on is the agreement that the Rochester Rhinos have with the New England Revolution. If the Rhinos become available, NYCFC might be able to find a partner that is a bit closer.
What players go on loan will also be an issue. NYCFC does not have any Homegrown Players or Generation Adidas players. However, this might be where the Manchester City ties come into play. City Football Group may use the Hammerheads as a place to give Youth Academy players the chance to go out on loan and get experience against more seasoned players.