In conjunction with the groundbreaking multi-year deal unveiled on Wednesday between MLS and USL Pro, D.C. United today announced that the club has entered into an affiliate agreement with USL PRO side the Richmond Kickers.
As a part of this arrangement with the Kickers, United will send a minimum of four first-team players – to be announced at a later date – on long-term loans to Richmond.
Similar arrangements are expected to be established or formalized between the Philadelphia Union and Harrisburg City Islanders, Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City, and New England Revolution and Rochester Rhinos. The Kickers-United agreement is for one year, reports Steve Goff of the Washington Post.
Separated by a little over 100 miles, the United and Kickers organizations worked closely together last year to organize loan spells for forward Long Tan and homegrown defender Ethan White, with 18 United players having played with the Kickers over the past 20 years.
“We have had a long-standing relationship with the Richmond Kickers and we are thrilled to now have a formal partnership in place that will benefit both organizations,” said D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper in a press release. “Many current and former D.C. United players have gained valuable experience while playing for the Kickers over the years, and we are excited to be working with a club who has a vision of excellence with everything from their professional team down to their academy and youth teams.”
The roster of United players–current and past–having seen time with the Kickers include 2011 Major League Soccer MVP Dwayne De Rosario, Mike Burke, Jeff Causey, Ben Crawler, Brian Kamler, Mike McGinty, Richie Williams, Mark Simpson, Clyde Simms and Robert Ssejjemba. Players who have featured with the Kickers on loan include Brian Carroll, John DiRaimondo, Justin Mapp, Andy Metcalf, Bryan Namoff, Anthony Peters, Long Tan and Ethan White. In franchise history, an impressive 22 players have progressed from the Richmond Kickers into Major League Soccer.
“We are delighted to partner with D.C. United, one of Major League Soccer’s, flagship brands and most successful franchises,” said Richmond Kickers director of soccer Leigh Cowlishaw in the press release. “Our affiliation agreement is the perfect compliment as both clubs have a proud winning tradition, proven track record of player development and a rich history of players who have represented the Kickers and D.C. United. We look forward to building a long-term alliance that will provide multiple benefits for both clubs and grow the professional soccer game at all levels.”
MLS sides without formal USL Pro affiliates will send their Reserve teams to participate in interleague competition with USL Pro squads. Fixtures between these MLS Reserve teams and USL Pro sides will count in both the official USL Pro and MLS Reserve League standings. With the goal of enhancing the development of professional soccer players in North America, this partnership between the two leagues aims to strengthen competition and establish a solid foundation for future collaboration.
Additional technical and commercial initiatives between MLS and USL Pro are expected to be announced in the coming months once details are finalized.