Photo credit: AFP

United States goalkeeper Tim Howard is to leave Everton at the end of the current season and return to Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids, the two clubs announced on Sunday.

Everton confirmed that Howard will move to the Rapids on a three-and-a-half-year deal as a Designated Player on July 4, bringing to an end an association with the Goodison Park club that began in 2006.

Howard, 37, has made more than 400 appearances for Everton since signing from Manchester United, initially on loan, 10 years ago but has recently lost his place to Joel Robles.

On the prospect of leaving the Toffees, Howard said: “I will miss it a lot. This is home. I grew up here. To stay 10 years in any place is a long time and this has become without doubt my family.

“And because this is home, of course I will miss it, but I’m excited about my move to Colorado Rapids and continuing my career with them.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez added: “He has a huge amount of experience and he has still got some very good years to come. His ambition still burns strong to represent USA in the next World Cup.”

Howard, who hails from New Jersey and played for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars before moving to United in 2003, will team up with a Rapids side who had won one of their opening two games of this MLS season before facing DC United on Sunday.

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“Tim is one of the greatest players this country has ever produced and we are delighted that he chose the Colorado Rapids when he decided to rejoin MLS,” said Rapids president Tim Hinchey.

The Designated Player rule allows MLS clubs to sign up to three players whose cost is not included in the team’s salary cap.

Current Designated Players at the Rapids are Irish former Reading and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Kevin Doyle and Albania forward Shkelzen Gashi, a recent signing from Swiss champions Basel.