The Washington Times - January 24, 2013, 03:23PM

Turning a longtime relationship between D.C. United and the Richmond Kickers into an official bond, the clubs Thursday announced their affiliation as part of a multiyear deal between MLS and third-tier USL Pro.

As part of the agreement, United will send at least four players to Richmond on long-term loans this season. In 2012, forward Long Tan and defender Ethan White were sent to the Kickers on short-term loans, while defender-midfielder Conor Shanosky spent an entire season with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra logged a slew of games for the Charleston Battery.

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Now, United will have an official partnership to help get their more youthful players time on the field.

“Many current and former D.C. United players have gained valuable experience while playing for the Kickers over the years,” United general manager Dave Kasper said, “and we are excited to be working with a club who has a vision of excellence with everything from their professional team down to their academy and youth teams.”

Because of the affiliation, United will not field a team in interleague competition between USL Pro sides and MLS reserve teams.