Stoke tie up USL deal
Stoke City have tied up a deal to affiliate themselves with a new United States soccer team - the Austin Aztex.
The new club will be based in Austin, Texas and is the first professional soccer team in the city. It's no coincidence that the new franchise is owned by Stoke City director, Phil Rawlins, who has lived in Austin for several years. They'll play in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) First Division beginning in the 2009 season. The Austin Aztex will have an official affiliation with Stoke City which will begin immediately, this will include the Potters holding their summer training camp in Austin, scouting for talent both locally and across the US, exchanging players with the Aztex and sharing best practices between the two clubs.
The obvious hope for the Potters (besides some nice warm pre-season training) is that they can identify any up and coming American players who they can bring over to play in England. But the announcement also highlights that Rawlins is unlikely to be investing any significant amounts of money directly into Stoke City whilst he concentrates on his new 'local' club.
Rawlins' active involvement in the Potters has been limited in recent years as he builds a new business empire in the States after he sold his insurance business that was based in the Potteries, but he continues to hold 10% of the shares in the club.
We've got a link to the Austin Aztex website here