Union, Harrisburg City Islanders expand partnership

Photo: Courtesy of Harrisburg City Islanders

At a joint press conference in Harrisburg, the Philadelphia Union and USL PRO affiliate Harrisburg City Islanders announced on Wednesday that they had expanded their partnership, “allowing players to stay, practice and play vital games along their USL counterparts for an extended period of time, possibly the entire length of the USL campaign.”

A press release from the Union explained, “Similar to Major League Baseball’s farm system, the Union can send First Team players down to Harrisburg for development, to gain extra playing time or to regain fitness following an injury. The player would still be a member of the Union’s roster and the club would hold all rights to the player, as well as be responsible for the players’ salaries.”

The press release added that the partnership extends beyond the players “as both the technical and front office staffs will exchange tips and best practices throughout the year.”

Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz said in the press release, “Having meaningful competitions at levels below MLS is absolutely critical to the development of aspiring players in North America. This partnership sets the stage toward building robust and successful levels below MLS to not only develop players but also, referees and soccer executives.”

Harrisburg City Islanders CEO Eric Pettis said, “This is a great opportunity to create a system to develop better players and organizations at all levels. Our partnership is a tremendous example of seeing a bigger vision of what the total development of soccer can be. Creating a system to strengthen the sport much like baseball is imperative to the continued growth in this country. The City Islanders are extremely proud to be a partner with the Philadelphia Union at the inception of this agreement between the MLS and USL PRO.”

The announcement also confirmed that the Harrisburg would host the Union in their annual friendly, the date and location to be announced at a later date.

On Jan. 23, MLS and USL PRO announced a partnership that would allow MLS teams to affiliate with USL PRO team in lieu of participating in the MLS Reserve League. The Union-City Islanders are joined by Kansas City-Orlando, DC-Richmond, and New England-Rochester in being the first clubs to participate in the the new partnership.

One Comment

  1. Awesome news. I hope this takes off throughout the league, as the best way to build a solid fan base is to have ties to places where the league is not present, much like SKC is doing in Orlando. Now those fans, and fans in central PA, will hopefully follow MLS more closely and build up TV ratings.

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