(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Racing Louisville FC’s youth academy will join the USL W League, the USL announced Tuesday. The move makes Racing the first W League member to complete its developmental pyramid.

The W League’s inaugural season kicks off in May.

Currently, more than 35 teams are signed on with the league, which has a goal as a pre-professional league to form a player pipeline between college and the professional ranks.

“We see the W league as a way to complete our path to pro model on the Racing side,” said the club’s interim president, James O’Connor. “We plan to get meaningful minutes for our top academy prospects and also use the league to see the best local and national collegiate talent. There will be a number of players who will play in this league on their way to the NWSL, so it provides an excellent development opportunity for our best young talent.”

The move is the first of its kind in the NWSL.

Racing Louisville is owned and operated by Soccer Holdings, LLC, which also owns two-time USL Championship title winner Louisville City FC. The organization plans to play its W League competitions at the Lynn Family Sports Vision & Training Center.

Both Racing and Louisville City launched their youth academies in the fall of 2020. Currently, the academy competes in the Elite Clubs National League. The addition of the W League squad helps to round out the path to the professional level for the girls’ system.

The coaching staff for the team will be named at a later date. Included on the roster will be a mix of high-level academy performers and college standouts with the hopes of one day signing with Louisville’s NWSL side.

“We are excited to add the final piece of our pathway for Racing Louisville Academy,” said Mario Sanchez, the program’s director. “The USL W league will provide our Racing Academy players the opportunity to further their development in a very competitive, pre-professional environment. We are looking forward to watching our academy members and other top collegiate stars work toward representing Racing in the NWSL.”

Racing Louisville will begin NWSL preseason on Feb. 1 after first joining the league during its 2021 season.