Officials from Albuquerque’s Rio Soccer Club and Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids have come to the same conclusion.
The two organizations will hold a news conference today at Albuquerque Academy’s Simms Center Auditorium to announce a working partnership. The successful Albuquerque club program will henceforth be known as the Rio Rapids Soccer Club and will have a number of official ties to its MLS partner.
Player development is a key part of the agreement, as Rio players will now have access to training through the Rapids Development Academy and Colorado’s development system. Elite male players could also qualify for “homegrown player” status that could ultimately provide them with a direct pipeline to playing for the Colorado Rapids.
In effect, the agreement will help make the Rapids something of home team for the youth players who compete with Rio Rapids SC.
“The MLS footprint is growing,” said Ken Levandoski, who coaches and serves on the board of directors for Rio Rapids SC. “The Rapids recognize the talent in Albuquerque, so this can benefit their organization. From our perspective, it provides a pipeline to pro soccer, gives kids a team to cheer for and a chance to dream about possibly playing at that level someday.”
Another aspect of the agreement is that the Rapids will continue to play annual games in Albuquerque, as they did in July. That match against Mexico’s Santos Laguna was hugely successful, attracting roughly 10,000 fans.
That did not escape the attention of city and state government officials. Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry and New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development Jon Barela are scheduled to attend the 7:30 p.m. ceremony at Albuquerque Academy.
“From a soccer standpoint, this will provide a great economic impact for Albuquerque,” Levandoski said.
In addition to its MLS men’s team, the Colorado Rapids organization includes a women’s team that competes in the W-League. Its training and development system is open to male and female players.
In connection with the partnership announcement, coaches from the Rapids Development Academy will be in Albuquerque working with local club players today.
“We share very similar philosophies on training and player development,” Levandoski said. “We feel like it’s a perfect synergy for us with the Rapids.”
Rio Rapids players will ultimately change uniforms to incorporate the Rapids’ colors of burgundy, blue and grey, but not until they are due to purchase new uniforms anyway. Patches will added to this year’s uniforms.