Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Ajax looking to purchase shares in MLS teams

Orlando based Ajax America is in negotiations to purchase an equity share of Major League Soccer teams in both Kansas City and San Jose. Ajax America is the American affiliate of AFC Ajax (Amsterdam), one of the top professional soccer clubs in Europe.

Ajax is not looking to become the lead investor in either club. Rich Bradley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Ajax America, described the situation like this:

“It really depends on whatever the deals that might shake out in each marketplace (are). It could be, simply, an association with them, whereby, we’re feeding them players or they’re sending us players. It could be a re-branding thing.

“It’s just more been, in a generic sense, of the ownership groups (saying) ‘Yeah, it would kind of make sense to be affiliated with you guys in some way’ and I’m saying, ‘Yeah, it would sort of make sense for (Ajax) to have an outlet between what were doing in Florida and Europe’ and, so now, we need to see who ends up with what and (discuss) what our options are.”

The idea here is similar to the farm clubs in baseball. They could keep hold of talent not currently needed in Amsterdam, while allowing the players a chance to play. Unlike baseball, however, they will have to wait for certain windows before they can call them up to the big team.

This seems to be the route MLS wants to go. One of the reasons behind yesterday's game against Real was to grow interest in them investing in the MLS down the road (note that Madrid plans on opening a camp similar to Ajax's in Florida).

Overall, having the bigger European clubs involved in MLS is a good idea. They bring experience, prestige and money. If MLS is ever going to grow into a big US sports league, they will need as much of these three things as they can get.


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