The Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who desire to become one of the premier soccer clubs in the United States, yesterday took a huge step toward that goal.
The Riverhounds signed a partnership agreement with the Everton Football Club of the English Premier League and will launch a soccer training academy this fall for youth players. The partnership will enable the Riverhounds to model the academy after the highly successful Everton training academy, use the same training methods and some of the same coaches.
As a newcomer to Pittsburgh soccer almost 10 years ago, I'm pleased to see something like this finally start to come together. The partnership focuses on player development, not building an entertainment franchise, and that's exactly the right way to go. Suburban soccer in Pittsburgh has long lagged its counterparts in other regions, largely, I think, because the lack of meaningful foreign immigration to Pittsburgh in the latter part of the 20th century means that the player and coaching pool here didn't diversify in the way that it did in many other communities.
I grew up in suburban California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, playing with and being coached by Europeans, Latin Americans, East Asians, and immigrants from Caribbean countries, especially Jamaica. Much of that diversity was the influx of immigrants to California, but much of it was leveraging the international populations of the local universities. My guess is that Columbus soccer flourished before Pittsburgh because of the influence of the OSU population. Connecting Pittsburgh soccer to an international population, even one that's not as diverse as would be ideal, can only be a good thing. We'll be dancing and dribbling to the Merseybeat.