The West Ham United International Academy has announced the launch of a North American Partner Club programme with partnerships agreed with some of the United States and Canada's top youth football clubs.

The International Academy officially unveiled its partners at the Annual General Meeting of the United Soccer Leagues to be held in Tampa, Florida. West Ham United International Academy is the official Barclays Premier League partner of the United Soccer Leagues.

West Ham United initiatives in the US and Canada formed the basis of the club's participation in the 2008 MLS All-Star Game in Toronto and a pre-season friendly match with Columbus Crew. Additionally, the club has been active in setting up a scouting and partnership network to help cover the 18 million-plus football players in North America.

Academy Director Tony Carr and his staff have been regular visitors to the US and Canada over the past few years and, as part of the growth of the initiative, the West Ham United International Academy has hired Mike Kelleher, a former FA Premier League Academy staff member, to lead its partnership development programme.

Speaking from its Atlanta headquarters, Kelleher said: "We have worked hard to ensure our first partner clubs will fit with the key principles and standards of the West Ham United Academy.

"We look forward to developing official West Ham United Academy events, tournaments and to provide a direct pathway for coaches and players to gain access to the world famous West Ham United Academy for our partner clubs and to add many more great youth soccer organisations to the West Ham United Network"

The 2009 West Ham United partner clubs are:

Northern Virginia Soccer was named as the top club by United Soccer Leagues for the 2009 Super Y League. The club operates teams at every level of the Super-Y League, in addition to fielding teams in the PDL, W- League and USL 2 pro division, as well as being a dominant participant in Virginia Youth Soccer. Northern Virginia has also been chosen to host the 2010 West Ham United USA Academy National Camp. The club includes over 8,500 players across Northern Virginia and is directed by Mo Sheta.

Erin Mills Soccer Club is ranked as the number one club in Ontario, Canada by TERRA power rankings. Under the direction of Josef Komlodi, Erin Mills has already established a record for sending players to West Ham United. Defender Patrick Soltys visited the club in 2008 and Aaron Vasant and Yuvneesh Dhalia were invited by Carr to be part of the 2010 Elite Player visit to West Ham United Academy, scheduled for March of 2010

Alpharetta United Football Club, in partnership with Ambush Elite Soccer Club, will represent the West Ham United Academy in the Atlanta, GA area. Alpharetta United was named as the 5th ranked club in the USL Super Y League for 2009 with a remarkable seven out of ten teams qualifying for the USL National Championships. The Ambush club continued the winning tradition by claiming the 2009 US Youth Soccer Region 3 Premier League and winning the top division at Disney in the U17 Boys Division.

Santa Clara Sporting, from Northern California, is one of the oldest and most successful competitive youth soccer organisations in the United States. With over 450 players on 30 teams from under-9 to under-18, Santa Clara Sporting continues to have a major impact on the local, district, regional and national soccer scenes. Club director, Carlos Brasil has already been a visitor to West Ham United's Academy and looks forward to a prosperous partnership between the two clubs.

Euro Soccer Club will be the first West Ham United partner club in the Chicago metropolitan area. Under the direction of Paul Keenan and Rob Etheridge, Euro Soccer Club welcomed Carr and his academy staff at a talent identification event ahead of the MLS All-Star game in 2008. Chicago is also the home city of West Ham United favourite and US international Jonathan Spector.

Newport Mesa Soccer Club, serving the Newport Beach area close to Los Angeles, CA plays in the highly competitive, Coast Soccer League. Director of Coaching Tamiko Davila and assistants Craig Harrington and Chris Klein (22 caps, USA) have already shown a commitment to integrating the West Ham United Way of Coaching and Player Development into the club operations and are looking forward to seeing the club grow in partnership with the West Ham United International Academy.

The West Ham United International Academy will be hosting a series of Elite Player ID Events with partner clubs during 2010, culminating in the West Ham United National Camp. The final camp will be directed by Carr and his senior staff from the Academy and will be held in the Washington DC area in July 2010. Partner clubs will be hosting local and regional Player ID events to serve players in their local communities through the spring and early summer of 2010.

In addition, the club will be launching the West Ham United Academy Cup Tournament in 2011, featuring West Ham United Academy teams participating in North America. Partner club tournaments will become West Ham United Academy Cup qualifying events, with top division winners gaining automatic qualification for the 2011 West Ham United Academy Cup Tournament and a chance to face off with the famous West Ham Untied Youth and Academy teams.

For further information on the West Ham United International Academy, click here or email Kelleher at mkelleher@westhamunited.co.uk