ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies on Monday announced a milestone partnership with the largest youth soccer club in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Bay United.
Tampa Bay United will rebrand as the TBU Rowdies beginning this season. The TBU Rowdies’ highest-level teams will wear the Rowdies’ familiar green and gold hooped jerseys on the field, expanding the visibility of the Rowdies throughout the region.
The move comes on the back of the Rowdies’ announcement that the Tampa Bay Rowdies U23 will join the Premier Development League for the upcoming season, which will create a direct path from youth soccer to the Rowdies’ professional team.
The partnership brings into focus the Rowdies’ goal of being the backbone of soccer in the Tampa Bay community and developing elite players both through the US Soccer Development Academy on the boys’ side and the Elite Clubs National League on the girls’ side.
“Over the last several years, the Rowdies’ focus has been to create a successful business model for both the first team players on the field and the stadium experience for the fans,” Rowdies COO Lee Cohen said. “We feel as if we are now prepared to focus on the next steps of our soccer evolution in the Tampa Bay Area. Partnering with TBU and making that club part of our family as the TBU Rowdies was, in our minds, the most logical next step.”
The TBU Rowdies are sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation as an official Boys Development Academy club, meaning TBU Rowdies teams compete at the highest level for their age groups. The Boys Development Academy clubs receive direction directly from the United States Soccer Federation on training regimens and environments to ensure the highest quality.
“We are honored to be working with such a highly esteemed team,” said Tampa Bay United CEO Charlie Slagle. “The value they bring in terms of expertise and opportunities supports our mission of developing youth talent as a long-term goal. It is not about winning one game, it is about developing what you need each year to continue for the long haul. Last year, we had a record number of TBU players sign on to play at the collegiate level, and this affiliation enhances our ability to be the top level club for youth soccer in the state of Florida.”
Heading the collaboration between the Rowdies and TBU is Keith Fulk, a pillar of the Tampa Bay soccer community. Fulk has been a part of three national championship teams at the University of Tampa, as a player in 1981, as an assistant coach in 1994 and as head coach in 2001. He spent the last six seasons as head coach at St. Leo University, leading the Lions to two Sunshine State Conference championships. He previously spent eight years as an assistant coach for the United States Under-17 national team, including four FIFA Youth World Cups.
“TBU has a long history of great success on the field in this market,” Cohen said. “The addition of Charlie Slagle to the TBU leadership and the successful model he created at CASL (Capital Area Soccer League, Raleigh, N.C.) made this opportunity extremely attractive. Adding Keith Fulk to the mix solidified this partnership. There are not two better guys that we can be working with to help our club achieve its goals both on and off the field in the youth development landscape.”