TAMPA, Fla. – At a news conference Wednesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sevilla Football Club Puerto Rico and Club Atlético River Plate Puerto Rico formally announced they will compete in USL PRO for the 2011 season. The Puerto Rico Soccer League (PRSL) members will join Barracuda FC of Antigua & Barbuda as the building blocks of a new USL PRO Caribbean Division.
The progressively-structured arrangement allows both Sevilla FC Puerto Rico and Club Atlético River Plate Puerto Rico - the past two PRSL regular season champions - to play in USL PRO, compete in the PRSL and continue to have the opportunity to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. PRSL expansion teams Indios de Mayagüez FC and Puerto Rico United, of Aguada, are also currently considering the possibility of competing in USL PRO.
In addition to officials from both clubs, Puerto Rican Futbol Federation President Joe Serralta, PRSL President Mike Roca and Juncos Mayor Alfredo “Papo” Alejandro joined USL Senior Director of International Development Francisco Marcos at the news conference.
Also present was Henry Neumann, secretary of the Department of Sports & Recreation of Puerto Rico, who announced the launch of the island-wide School Athletic Football League. League champions will be invited to participate in the USL Super Y-League North American Finals beginning in 2011.
This unique new initiative designed to promote the growth of youth soccer in Puerto Rico was originally discussed when USL officials entered into formal discussions with the Puerto Rican Football Federation in April. The relationship between USL and the PRFF is expected to grow in the coming years with a focus on the development of men’s and women’s soccer, starting at the youth level.
“This is a special day for us as this announcement heralds the true launch of the USL Caribbean Division that we’ve been working toward since Joe Serralta and I first began discussing the possibilities back in 1995,” Marcos said. “Equally exciting is the fact that USL will be able to make a real difference in the growth of both the men’s and women’s games in Puerto Rico, starting at the youth level. “
Founded in 2006 as an affiliate of the Puerto Rico Islanders, Sevilla FC Puerto Rico partnered with Spanish power Sevilla FC in 2008 and became one of the eight founding members of the Puerto Rico Soccer League. Sevilla FC captured the 2008 PRSL title and plays out of Sevilla FC Stadium in Juncos.
“It is an honor for Sevilla FC Puerto Rico-Juncos to have been selected from amongst many professional teams to become part of such a highly-respected league,” Sevilla FC President Dr. Francisco Martínez-Cañavate said. “Sevilla FC Puerto Rico is ready to embark on this new journey which will certainly contribute to the ever-growing expansion of soccer in Puerto Rico and contribute to the growth of United Soccer Leagues.”
Club Atlético River Plate Puerto Rico was founded in 2007 and plays out of Sixto Escobar Stadium in San Juan. The team posted a 14-0-2 record in the 2008-09 season, finishing atop the PRSL standings.
“This is a historical moment for Club Atlético River Plate as it’s been six years since we began the process of working toward joining USL,” River Plate Chairman Steven Álvarez said. “This is a dream realized and we’re very excited to be a part of this innovative inter-league concept that brings together USL and the PRSL.”