San Antonio FC players celebrate a goal by forward Shawn Chin during a match against the Tulsa Roughnecks FC in April 2016. Credit: Darren Abate / USL.

San Antonio FC announced Thursday that it will be the United Soccer League affiliate of Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club for the 2017 season.

In an agreement that could help its bid to win an MLS expansion franchise, San Antonio FC announced that the Spurs Sports & Entertainment-owned soccer club will serve as the lower-division affiliate for the New York City club.

NYCFC’s majority owner is City Football Group, which also owns Manchester City of the English Premier League. The New York Yankees hold a 20% stake in NYCFC.

“The partnership will facilitate the sharing of best practices between the two clubs as well as [between] Spurs Sports & Entertainment and City Football Group – the controlling entity of NYCFC,” SAFC stated in a press release. “The two organizations will explore opportunities in marketing, community relations, player development, academy expansion and growth as well as other key areas of sports business.”

Because the two cities are far apart geographically, significant player movement isn’t likely between the two clubs. But after an injury-filled 2016 season for SAFC, the ability to take on a player who is good enough to get an MLS contract but who is not getting much playing time in New York will benefit the local team.

The move is expected to bolster SAFC’s chances of bringing an expansion franchise to San Antonio, which was one of 12 cities to apply last month for two expansion franchises to be awarded by MLS. Those new teams are expected to begin play in 2020.

Building a professional relationship with one of the biggest names in soccer has the potential to push Spurs Sports & Entertainment ahead of the other potential MLS expansion ownership groups. SAFC has been a franchise for barely a year, but its ownership has moved aggressively to make the team competitive and a viable contender for MLS expansion.

“Spurs Sports & Entertainment is a best-in-class professional sports organization that New York City FC can learn a great deal from as we look to grow our club on and off the field within the American sporting landscape,” said NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna. “We also believe this will be a mutually beneficial relationship which will allow us to share ideas and knowledge on team and coaching development between the two clubs.”

SAFC’s second season begins March 26 with a match at the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. The team, which plays 16 home games at Toyota Field, opens its home season April 1 against LA Galaxy II.

Kyle Mahnke

Kyle Mahnke

Kyle Mahnke is a proud graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and has covered San Antonio soccer since 2014.