ST PETERSBURG, FL – On Monday, the Tampa Bay Rowdies announced the signing of Tate Johnson and Santiago “Santi” Castaneda to USL Academy contracts, making them eligible to play for the Rowdies in USL Championship matches and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches.
Johnson and Castaneda, both listed as defenders on the Rowdies roster, could suit up for the Rowdies as early as Tuesday night’s home match versus USL League Two’s The Villages SC in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup.
“We’ve waited three years for the U.S. Open Cup to come back and this is a big part of the Open Cup, the opportunity to give the best young players in the area the opportunity to play at a high level,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “Tate and Santi have both proven that they’re ready for this opportunity. They deserve it. We’re going to do everything we can to win the game and I think they can help our team do that and get to the next round of the Open Cup.”
Both players featured for the Rowdies on the club’s 2021 USL Academy squad, which played four exhibition matches last year against other USL Academy competition. This year, Johnson and Castaneda have been training regularly with the Rowdies senior team and have seen the field in a few of Tampa Bay’s preseason matches. Bayfront Health St. Petersburg is the presenting partner of the Rowdies’ USL Academy program.
Johnson and Castaneda earned their opportunities with the Rowdies after developing through two of Tampa Bay’s prominent youth academies. Johnson represents Tampa Bay United SC, while Castaneda represents Florida Premier FC. USL Academy contracts allow academy players the chance to play with the first team in professional matches while retaining their NCAA eligibility.
Tickets to the Rowdies’ Tuesday night Open Cup clash with The Villages are only $15 and can be purchased here. Following Tuesday’s match, the club will stay home for a showdown with in-state rival Miami FC on Saturday, April 9. Tickets for the match can be purchased here. To organize a discounted group outing or for any other ticket related inquiries, call the Rowdies ticket office at 727-222-2000.