Riverhounds become Major League Soccer affiliate

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The Riverhounds have become the fifth United Soccer Leagues Pro team to form an affiliate partnership with a Major League Soccer club, partnering with the Houston Dynamo for the 2014 season, the team announced Tuesday.

A minimum of four Houston players will be sent to the Riverhounds on loan this season as part of the agreement. Dynamo president Chris Canetti said the players, who are under MLS contract, will have their salaries paid by Houston.

The affiliation is a one-year deal, per MLS regulations, Canetti said.

The MLS has expressed a desire to have all of its teams participate in the USL Pro league by 2015, either with an affiliation like this one or by fielding their own team in the league.

The Dynamo initiated talks for a partnership when it expressed a desire for an affiliate. Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney said the MLS then contacted the USL Pro to see which of its teams would be interested, and then the league came to the Riverhounds.

“What’s most important to us in this partnership is that our players that are sent here have a great place to develop and they’re looked after by the club,” Canetti said.

The Riverhounds also announced the creation of a Premier Development League (PDL) team Tuesday, which will begin operating in the 2014 season.

The PDL is the top amateur league in the country and will offer local collegiate players a team to play on in the summer. Before this, there was nowhere for them to go.

“That’s the tough part — you go nowhere,” Kutney said. “It’s a huge deficiency. The colleges in this area, I’ve spoken to a few of them recently about this, they even said that in terms of attracting players to this area, it’s becoming more and more difficult because they all leave in the summer. Just keeping those guys here year-round, keeping them at the higher levels, keeping them fresh and fit would be a game-changer for them.”

The PDL team, which Kutney said does not yet have a name but will be under the Riverhounds umbrella, will play home games at Highmark Stadium, likely as doubleheaders with the Riverhounds.

The Riverhounds hope to train in Houston in advance of the 2014 season. Canetti said there’s a possibility of the Dynamo playing a friendly against the Riverhounds, perhaps during the World Cup break next year.

Orlando City (Sporting Kansas City), Harrisburg (Philadelphia Union), Richmond (D.C. United) and Rochester (New England Revolution) are the other USL Pro teams that have MLS partnerships.

Nick Veronica: nveronica@post-gazette.com and Twitter @NickVeronica.

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