As part of Major League Soccer’s efforts to help further the development of professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, the Colorado Rapids has agreed terms with an ownership group in Charlotte, North Carolina to enter a partnership with new USL PRO franchise, the Charlotte Independence.
Pending approval from Major League Soccer and the United Soccer Leagues, the new team will serve as Colorado’s USL PRO affiliate and begin competing in the 2015 season.
“Over the last three and a half years, we have put a tremendous emphasis on youth and young professional development,” said Brian Crookham, Senior Director of Soccer Development for the Colorado Rapids. “Having a quality partner that can provide the right environment for players to get meaningful minutes as they work their way to the starting XI is critical to our success. The Charlotte Independence is that partner."
As part of the agreement, several Rapids players will be loaned to the Independence during each season. With the end of the MLS Reserve League, which this year is to involve a maximum of just eight games, the partnership will allow for players to feature in many more competitive matches throughout a season.
Colorado will spearhead the hiring of technical staff. Crookham is set to be the interim technical director for the Independence.
In January of 2013, Major League Soccer announced a multi-year partnership with the USL that gave MLS teams the opportunity to formally partner with USL PRO clubs or have their MLS Reserve teams participate in interleague competition with USL PRO squads, as the Rapids have done the last two seasons.
Last season, Colorado faced the Harrisburg City Islanders twice, falling 2-1 at home on April 20 and then defeating the Pennsylvania team 3-1 with a Kevin Harbottle hat-trick on the road. This year, the Rapids dropped a 4-3 result to Sacramento Republic FC in June, and defeated the Dayton Dutch Lions 2-1 on August 23.