Leicester star Vardy buys stake in Rochester Rhinos

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Leicester City darling Jamie Vardy purchased a minority stake in defunct USL side Rochester Rhinos, the club announced Tuesday.

Vardy's financial agreement with the team's owners, David and Wendy Dworkin, coincides with the club's return to competitive football following a four-year hiatus.

"I think it kind of resonates with me because of what they've achieved in the past - the only lower-league club to win the U.S. Open Cup, the only team to have ever done it who's outside MLS (Major League Soccer)," Vardy told The Athletic's Stuart James.

"It's all about bringing that back and trying to replicate it - but we also want to bring it back even better than it was before."

It's a fitting marriage between the Rhinos and Vardy, a self-admittedly rough-around-the edges non-league outcast who became a Premier League winner.

Formed in 1996, the Rhinos quickly found success in the now-defunct A-League, winning three national titles and the U.S. Open Cup in 1999 with a 2-0 win over MLS' Colorado Rapids. In 2013, the club became a USL affiliate for MLS' New England Revolution before winning the USL championship in 2015.

A year later, the Dworkins purchased the club while it was on the brink of collapse and incurred a $1.5-million shortfall in two seasons, prompting the hiatus. The Dworkins also own a minority stake in the NBA's Sacramento Kings.

The organization reportedly hopes to field a team for the 2022 season. Vardy admitted that his investment in the organization is "a long-term project" that has been more than two years in the making.

David Dworkin sees similarities between Vardy's tale and that of the Rhinos.

"Jamie's story and our story, and our city, they mix together so well," Dworkin said. "Jamie wouldn't do well at the Beverly Hills Rhinos. That's not him.

"Our first meeting, he was drinking Corona beer. I said, 'Why Corona?' He said, 'It was on sale.' Here's a guy making £10 million, and he's drinking a $3 beer because it's on sale. That's what we like about Jamie. There are no airs about him. What you see is what you get," Dworkin added.

Vardy doesn't know if his status in England will translate to New York State's third-largest city.

"Wendy and David did tell me that there's a new pub (called The Sheffield) that's opened in Rochester and that it's owned by a guy who's from Sheffield," he said. "So that's at least one person who might know me."

Also involved in Vardy's investment are John Morris, his agent, and Lee Tucker, Vardy's V9 Academy chief, who will become sporting director with the Rhinos. Vardy, under contract with FA Cup holders Leicester City through 2023, said the club was "really supportive" in his pursuit of an agreement with Rochester.

Leicester star Vardy buys stake in Rochester Rhinos
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