The Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL PRO announced Tuesday they have agreed to be an affiliate partner with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer. The deal will allow the Dynamo to loan a minimum of four players to the Hounds for the 2014 USL PRO season.
Highmark Stadium at Station Square hosted the press conference, which included officials from the Hounds and Houston. The association between USL PRO and MLS is entering its second year of a multi-year affiliation and has had immediate impact for teams in both leagues.
Other partnerships include the Harrisburg City Islanders and the Philadelphia Union; the Orlando City Lions and Sporting Kansas City; the Richmond Kickers and D.C. United; and the Rochester Rhinos and the New England Revolution.
The alliance will allow Houston to be able to assign players to the franchise where they will train and work their way on to the Hounds, and assist the club in its battle for points. It should be noted that it is still up to Pittsburgh head coach Justin Evans to determine how much Houston’s assigned players contribute.
This new union will also allow the Hounds to travel to Texas for its preseason and train at the Dynamo’s facility at Houston Sports Park. The possiblilty of a friendly match between the two clubs is in the process of being worked out. It would be played during the two week break in the MLS schedule in mid-June.
The arrangement marks the end of Houston’s participation in the MLS Reserve League. The Dynamo decided to do what four MLS teams did last season and pursue a partnership with a USL PRO franchise for 2014. According to Dynamo president Chris Canetti, the Reserve League did not offer the same opportunities as a deal with Pittsburgh.
The infrequency of games and the cost of operating a reserve team factored into the decision to move to the loan structure of their new agreement. It was MLS management that recommended the Hounds to the Dynamo and that is how the talks between the two clubs began.
Pittsburgh CEO Jason Kutney told riverhounds.com, “In partnering with a top MLS side like Houston Dynamo, the Riverhounds are now on a path to the top, both on and off the field,”
Four of the last five clubs to enter MLS have moved up from the USL’s top professional division. The Vancouver Whitecaps, the Seattle Sounders, the Portland Timbers and the Montreal Impact all operated franchises in the USL’s top professional division before making the transition to MLS.
Riverhounds Reinforcements: The Pittsburgh Riverhounds also announced this week that they have obtained a Premier Development League (PDL) franchise that will begin operations in the 2014 season. It will also be known as the Riverhounds.
The PDL is a national amateur league for players mainly younger than 23, and has been the league for young college players to continue their development toward the professional ranks. The clubs are all across North America, and compete for a championship each summer.
The PDL platform also allows for identification opportunities within high school aged players. With PDL roster spots available for limited players under the age of 18, the Hounds will be able to further prepare young stars for the collegiate and professional levels.
The Riverhounds are nominees in several categories for the 2013 USL Organizational Awards, to be announced on December 13.
Pittsburgh has been nominated for team awards in Marketing, Broadcasting, Progress, and Organization of the Year. Jason Kutney is in the running for USL PRO Executive of the Year while assistant coach John Rotz is one of the candidates for the Betsy McAdams Key Grip Award.