The partnership, which will begin with a three-year agreement, operates across four pillars: sharing of knowledge, talent development, brand and corporate responsibility and creating new business opportunities. The two clubs found common ground on a "shared set of values and philosophies" across sporting ethos and philosophy, fascination in innovation and social responsibility.
"We are constantly working to build on our role as a technology leader in the Bundesliga," Hoffenheim CEO Dr. Peter Gorlich told ESPN. "And in order to do so, we have to look at other markets and industries we can learn from and exchange valuable knowledge with. Considering the simple fact that the USA are one of, or maybe, the most innovative country in the world, it would have been negligent not to look at opportunities within the market."
For FC Cincinnati's General Manager Gerard Nijkamp, they see the partnership as being key "in the way we think to create a sustainable soccer organization who can compete and play for the highest prizes in MLS soccer."
Both clubs recognise they may not have the natural allure of LA Galaxy or Inter Miami in the U.S. when it comes to location, nor the same financial muscle as Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, but it is about establishing a framework where the two clubs work together to "maximise opportunities for both clubs on a global scale," according to Dr. Gorlich.
"The ultimate goal of the partnership is to augment our resources, create new opportunities, and open up revenue potentials for both clubs," Dr. Gorlich said. Hoffenheim point to their strong data analytics department as one area they're looking to help FC Cincinnati, but they are also keen to learn "more about the current state in the development of talent in MLS," Dr. Gorlich added.
FC Cincinnati and Hoffenheim already had a strong bond given that there are two former Hoffenheim players on the MLS team's roster. Joseph Gyau played for Hoffenheim from 2011 to 2014 and joined FC Cincinnati in August 2019 from MSV Duisburg, while Jurgen Locadia was on loan at Hoffenheim last season and signed for Cincinnati on loan ahead of MLS is Back as a designated player. Dr. Gorlich points to both players as "great examples of what this could look like in the future" while FC Cincinnati GM Nijkamp hopes the partnership will enable the clubs to share knowledge and data to sign the best talent on offer.
"Maybe talented players from our academy, maybe from our first team, our homegrown players can get some experience in Hoffenheim during [the MLS] offseason, " Nijkamp said. "And for them to get an idea of the standard of our club based on the players we have. And for us to give our players that excitement and that opportunity to improve their skill set.
"[We can use the partnership] to identify together markets. For instance, the South American markets, I think, are very interesting markets not only for MLS, but also for Europe. These talents are coming from a different culture, and you see them drop out a lot of times because they cannot adapt to the European culture, the language, lifestyle, [and so on]. And maybe we can be that bridge and going through America through FC Cincinnati, when players are better prepared to become successful in the Bundesliga.
"On the other side, I think it's [the partnership is] also interesting for players who don't get a lot of experience or playing time in Hoffenheim, because they are not ready yet."
Success for both clubs will be dependent on communication. Innovation is integral to the partnership, and while they are both quick to insist this is not a mere commercial deal to further shirt sales in each other's hometown, the two hope the partnership will produce results on the field sooner rather than later.
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"At the end of the day, everyone has to take responsibility, starting with leadership and ending with the operation side," Nijkamp said. "I think in the way we prepare this partnership and how we build on it is around the four pillars are about knowledge, talents, the brands and the business.
"It's about communication. But of course, we need also to become official for each other's organization. I always talk about to create that catalyst." Nijkamp hopes this will materialise in a player benefiting from the new partnership and moving from one club to the other, either on short-term loan or through their new pathway.
With several U.S. players impressing in the Bundesliga, like Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, Josh Sargent at Werder Bremen and Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig, there is a growing urgency from Bundesliga clubs when it comes to identifying and signing young American talent. Both Hoffenheim and FC Cincinnati are hoping prospective talents look at the pathway they offer as one way to achieve that goal of playing in Europe, and the two are adamant this partnership will flourish and succeed.
"In the past, these partnerships rarely delivered much and slipped out of the spotlight as soon as the participating clubs issued the obligatory press releases," said Tony Mamodaly, Hoffenheim head of international operations. "We want to learn from these mistakes; thus we have developed a clear strategy and utilize a communication platform that helps us track the development and progress of the partnership at any time."
Gorlich added: "Ultimately, it is all about creating additional opportunities. For both our academy players as well as or professional players, FC Cincinnati and the MLS will present an additional development platform."