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Rowdies, Tampa Bay United announce milestone partnership

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The two largest soccer presences in Tampa Bay have become one.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Tampa Bay United have announced a partnership.

Tampa Bay United, the largest youth soccer team in Tampa Bay, 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 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.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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