Colorado Rapids will participate in a new pathway to the first team, the club announced Monday.
The club launched Rapids 2, which will participate in MLS NEXT Pro, a lower-division league aimed at helping MLS clubs bridge the gap between academy teams and the first teams. With the creation of the reserve side, the formal affiliation agreement between the Rapids and Colorado Springs Switchbacks has ended, according to the team release.
“We’re grateful to the entire Switchbacks FC organization for being a wonderful partner over the past three seasons and for the key role it has played in the development of many of our young players,” Rapids executive vice president and general manager Pádraig Smith said in the team's release. “We look forward to seeing the club continue the great work they’re doing both on the pitch and in growing the sport in Colorado.”
Brian Crookham, previously the general manager of the Switchbacks, will work in the same role for Rapids 2.
Previously, the Rapids would assign a handful of players to the Switchbacks on season-long loans with a few others joining the United Soccer League Championship side for stretches of the season. Moving forward, it appears most players on the fringe of the Rapids' roster will represent Rapids 2 as they try to break into the first team.
“We’re excited to take part in MLS NEXT Pro as one of the league’s inaugural teams,” Smith said. “Rapids 2 will serve as a fundamental piece of our player development pathway by not only providing a competitive, professional environment for young talent to develop, but also giving us the ability to extend this opportunity to a broader range of players in our youth system during a critical phase in their development.”