Miami: Serie A club AS Roma are looking to discover and develop American talent through a new partnership with seven youth soccer clubs in the United States.
Roma CEO Italo Zanzi told Reuters that the initiative would include coaching exchanges, allow the American clubs to feature in tournaments in Italy and would be a direct, year-round arrangement.
Officials from five clubs, who are all members of U.S. Soccer`s Development Academy system, are meeting Roma officials in Miami this week. Two more clubs are expected to join the partnership.
Roma have an American ownership, headed by president James Pallotta and also have a number of commercial partnerships in the States.
"Given our ownership, our management, the United States is a top priority for AS Roma, not only in terms of building a fan base but also contributing to player development," said Zanzi.
"Clearly there are a lot of teams that have been active in the U.S. whether it is on a promotional level, on a youth development level, but we decided to try to find our own way to do it and we did it by identifying existing clubs that we have full faith in because of their track record, leadership and results," he added.
The five teams so far involved with the program are Chargers from Clearwater, Florida, Pateadores from Southern California, FC Greater Boston Bolts, Real Colorado and Vardar from Detroit.
Roma intend to add a club from the New York/New Jersey area and one from the Pacific North West.
While having a direct link with Roma the teams will retain their own identities, Zanzi said.
"It is certainly a way to help these clubs to develop their system by giving them the best that we have to offer, we also understand we can learn from them. It is not about dictating to our partner clubs what is best," he added.
There has been criticism from some in American soccer that foreign teams are now competing for youth players with Major League Soccer clubs but Zanzi said their role was complimentary to other efforts to develop talent.
"It is not about trying to cherry pick one player or to fight with the system to have some sort of systematic dominance. We want to be considered good citizens, an additive but also providing a path to elite European football and Serie A".