While the affiliation brings an end to the "Tacoma Tide" name and to their familiar yellow kits, Smith said the deal should improve the PDL club's viability in the South Sound, while also improving its quality on the pitch, where they are coming off of a 1-10-5 season.
"The Sounders brand represents a significant brand -- not just the No. 1 brand in soccer in the country, it is now a world brand. ... That's part of why I think it was best to collaborate," Tide owner Lane Smith said in a phone interview. "... From a Pierce County standpoint, this allows an opportunity for people to go see very high-quality soccer at a price point that is very affordable.
"... Absolutely I think this is going to bring the bar of players up tremendously. ... (What young player) wouldn't want to connect themselves to one of the world's best soccer brands, or have the opportunity to get there."
Here is the official announcement:
Seattle Sounders FC announced today that it has added an Under-23 Premier Development League (PDL) team to its Youth Development Program. The Sounders FC U-23s will be coached byDarren Sawatzky, Sounders FC director of youth development, and will begin play in May.
Sounders FC U-23 will be operated by Pierce County business leaders Lane Smith and Cliff McElroy, who purchased the former Tacoma Tide FC and Sounders Women franchises in November. The Tide, who will now be known as Sounders FC U-23, has been a member of the PDL’s Northwest Division since 2006.
The Sounders FC U-23s will play their home matches in Pierce County. The venue for the games will be announced at a later date.
“By now having an affiliated PDL program, Sounders FC has added an additional piece to our Youth Development Program, creating a bridge between our academy teams and our Major League Soccer first team,” said General Manager Adrian Hanauer. “This allows our college-age players to continue their development and further prepare themselves for the opportunity to compete at the highest possible level and potentially wear the Rave Green someday at CenturyLink Field.”
The Sounders FC Academy, consisting of boys U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, is now in its second season of play.
“Pierce County has a rich soccer heritage and we are excited to partner with the Sounders to be able to offer Pierce County soccer fans a high-level game experience,” said Sounders FC U-23 co-owner Lane Smith. “The Sounders FC affiliation will allow the U-23 PDL team greater access to top local soccer talent as well as the best college players across the United States."
“We are pleased to have Darren Sawatzky as the U-23 coach. Darren has been successful as an MLS player and USL assistant coach as well as the director of the Sounders Youth Development Program. Darren grew up in Federal Way and he has strong ties to the local soccer community,” Smith said.
“Coaching the Sounders FC U-23s is an exciting opportunity for me,” said Sawatzky. “It will be great to watch these players grow and compete at this level and chase the dream of playing at the top level. I look forward to getting started.”
I'll have more from Hanauer and Smith soon. Sawatzky is out of town and unavailable for any comments beyond what is provided in the release above.