Growing up in Market Bosworth, a small town in England, Columbus United Soccer Club director of coaching Simon Davis was familiar with the Everton Football Club but didn't root for it.

Now he'll need to make room in his heart for the squad.

Columbus United has become the first soccer organization in the United States to partner with Everton, which plays in the Premier League. Davis expects the partnership, announced May 22, will boost Columbus United's popularity in the central Ohio soccer community and raise the skill level of its players.

"This (partnership) does feel special as to be running a club here in America that is now connected so closely with Everton, (it) is amazing and something I never dreamed of happening," said Davis, who is a fan of the Premier League's Leicester City FC.

Davis, 37, was a semi-professional player in England before moving to Columbus in 2002 to focus more on coaching. He started Columbus United's youth program in 2015.

As part of the Everton International Academy Affiliate Programme, Columbus United players will have the opportunity to visit Everton's facilities in Liverpool, England, and coaches and players will receive year-round guidance from Everton coaches.

Davis is hoping to take the next trip to England by March. The timeline depends on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"With the Everton announcement, it's going to provide so much more opportunity for the kids in the club to really push on to that next level," Davis said. "Everton has been doing this for a long time. Their academy is top-notch, so to get their expertise on their training protocol and developing professional players like they're renowned for is huge."

Another goal of the partnership is to help increase Everton's popularity.

"Just being with that program is massive," Davis said. "They're looking to spread their name and their reach and pick up more Everton fans over here. One of the goals of the club is to get these kids to want to follow Everton."

Davis said his club, which is based in Lewis Center, has more than 400 youth players. He estimates 80 percent of the youth roster is from the Olentangy school district.

Columbus United was established in 1988 as a men's amateur team, with about 25 men still participating on Sundays.

Avery Hyek, an Under-15 player preparing for her freshman year at Olentangy Orange, was part of a tour last year in which members of the club traveled to London to train with Fulham FC. They also visited Davis' hometown.

"I think (the partnership is) great," said Hyek, who was coached by Davis when she joined the club in 2015. "When we went on the England tour, I loved their style of play over there. It's a great opportunity so we can have the same kind of training that they have over there."

The partnership with Everton excites Parker Johnston, who is entering eighth grade at Olentangy Shanahan Middle School and plays on the U14 team.

"I'm excited because it's a Premier League team, so our coaches will get more information and improve our skill level," he said. "It will give us more drills to do so we can work on our technique."

Davis declined to reveal the annual fee associated with the partnership, which Everton believes will strengthen Columbus United's standing in central Ohio.

"Columbus United shares a passion with Everton for developing quality footballers and helping them grow as people," Everton director Joel Waldron said in a press release. "I'm confident this partnership can help Columbus (United) become even more successful in that goal. Working closely in collaboration with our academy program, I'm excited to see the progress that will be made in the months and years ahead."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank