PITTSBURGH (June 14, 2017) – The Pittsburgh Riverhounds have agreed to a developmental partnership with the Ocean City Nor’easters of the USL Premier Developmental League (PDL) through the 2018 season.
Originally founded as a Division 3 pro club in 1996, the Nor'easters joined the PDL in 2003 and since then have the sixth-best record among the 72 teams in the league. Ocean City has qualified for the playoffs seven times and has made two PDL final four appearances since 2013, and has won multiple honors, including Organization of the Year in 2008. The amateur club’s success has translated against professional opponents as well, notching five upsets in U.S. Open Cup play since 2003 and recording four wins against MLS Under-23 squads this past summer – D.C. United, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls and Reading United.
"I am personally really excited to do this partnership deal with Ocean City,” Riverhounds head coach Dave Brandt said. “It's a club I've been aware of and familiar with for quite awhile, and they have a fantastic record and reputation both as a winning organization, and an organization who are serious about developing and working with top players and advancing their careers. Clearly one of the top PDL organizations in the country, and we are delighted to align with them."
As part of the developmental side of the USL, the Nor’easters have paved the way for several players to professional soccer, seeing 22 members drafted into MLS, including 10 in the last three years, and more than 60 players have moved on to sign pro contracts since 2003. Six of them have played with the Hounds, including three current players: Keasel Broome, John Manga and Chevaughn "Chevy" Walsh – the latter most notably signed last year after notching PDL MVP and Golden Boot honors.
Both clubs expect the affiliation to provide key improvements in player identification, establishing an expanded player-scouting network between the clubs, in addition to staff development initiatives within the USL-PDL framework. Initiatives are expected to include collaboration between the staffs of both clubs in training, film work, as well as the potential for Ocean City prospects to trial with the Hounds throughout the summer.
"We are thrilled and equally excited to have the opportunity to work closely with the Hounds. We felt this partnership was the right time, the right place and most importantly, the right organization,” said Tim Oswald, Ocean City's Sporting Director. “We have been very impressed with Coach Brandt's philosophies and vision for the club and his aspirations to push the envelope in his short time with Pittsburgh. I have no doubt that he will grow the club and its brand to new heights.
“This partnership exemplifies the Path-to-Pro model of the PDL and we are proud to provide our players and staff with an expanded umbrella for development.”
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds compete in the United Soccer League, the second division of professional soccer in United States directly below Major League Soccer (MLS). The 'Hounds have been playing pro soccer in the Steel City for nearly two decades. In 2013, the club solidified its place in the city's major league sports landscape by opening Highmark Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium that overlooks downtown Pittsburgh.
"Partnerships like this one are important to the landscape of soccer," PDL Director Todd Eason said. "We are seeing more professional clubs finding the desire and recognizing the need to partner with PDL clubs, and having a strong program like the Nor’easters partner with a resourceful Pittsburgh Riverhounds will only help each club gain a stronger presence in their respective market. We look forward to seeing this partnership grow and assisting with business and player development."
With this partnership, there are now 19 PDL franchises affiliated with or owned and operated by a North American professional club.
With the addition of Ocean City, the Hounds have further strengthened their developmental network, now running affiliations from the PDL through MLS (Columbus Crew SC).