Release Provided By Pittsburgh Riverhounds

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 16, 2015) – The Pittsburgh Riverhounds have signed an affiliation agreement with Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew SC to become the Ohio club’s primary destination for loaned players during the 2016 United Soccer League season.

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Columbus won this year’s MLS Eastern Conference and earned the right to host the MLS Cup Final on Dec. 6 after defeating the New York Red Bulls over two legs last month. Crew SC fell short in its bid for a second MLS crown with a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers.

“Our coaching staff is thrilled to be affiliated with one of the best organizations in MLS,” said Riverhounds head coach Mark Steffens. “Crew SC sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter’s style and philosophy are similar to ours, so I believe our partnership will be very fruitful on a number of fronts.

“This is a great opportunity for our entire club to learn from Columbus both on and off the field, to help to develop young loanees into well-rounded professionals and men of integrity, and to strengthen our roster for another USL playoff push in 2016.”

Steffens and Berhalter will address the media today at 1 p.m. Eastern time via conference call. Media members must RSVP in order to ask a question on the call by contacting Ian Thomson at ithomson@riverhounds.com and Ryan Schwepfinger at RSchwepfinger@columbuscrewsc.com.

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Columbus was one of the 10 founding members of MLS in 1996 under the ownership of legendary sports entrepreneur Lamar Hunt. MAPFRE Stadium opened three years later as the first soccer-specific venue in the league. Precourt Sports Ventures purchased the club in 2013 as part of the privately held investment and management firm’s sports and entertainment business enterprise.

Crew SC won its first trophy in 2002 by lifting the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Argentine playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto inspired the Black & Gold to its sole MLS Cup title in 2008.

United States national team defender Michael Parkhurst captains the current Crew SC line-up that contains a crop of talented homegrown players including Chad Barson, Ben Swanson and Wil Trapp.

“We look forward to beginning a USL affiliation with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as we continue to strengthen our player development efforts,” Berhalter said. “Pittsburgh’s philosophies and values on and off the field, from ownership to the coaching staff, are like-minded and exactly what we are looking for in a partnership.

“Mark Steffens is a Hall of Fame coach and we feel Pittsburgh will be a strong environment for success in the development of some of our younger professionals.”

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