- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Soccer organizations in Rapid City are merging and forging a partnership with a major league team.

After nearly two years of negotiating, the former Rushmore Soccer Club and the Rapid City Youth Soccer League have joined to become the Black Hills Soccer Club. The club will be affiliated with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids - the first time a youth sports organization in South Dakota has partnered with a professional team, the Rapid City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/Prury5 ).

“This is huge,” said Rob Tschetter, a longtime Rapid City soccer player, supporter and a driving force in the merger. “Not only is it going to give kids in this area that much more opportunity, it’s also going to create a process where our coaches, players and parents are all moving in the same direction.”

The Colorado Rapids will be in charge of the Rapid City operation, providing training and competition opportunities, educating coaches and parents and providing administrative support.

Tschetter said having an MLS team calling the shots should help with the merger because it will provide direction for the new club.

“They’re in charge and we will do what they instruct us to do,” he said.

The Colorado Rapids also have teams in New Mexico, Nevada and North Carolina under its umbrella.

“We want to create environments in any community that we work in where we provide a model for youth development,” said Brian Crookham, Colorado Rapids senior director of youth development. “We want the experience of every player to match their needs, to match their ability and their desire . it doesn’t matter if you’re a 5-year-old boy or girl, high school boy or girl, or an aspiring professional. We want to make sure the pathway is there.”

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com