USL Premier Development League

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For the English league, see Professional Development League.
USL Premier Development League
Pdllogonew.jpg
Country United States
Other club(s) from Canada
Confederation US Soccer
Founded 1995
Divisions 10 in 4 Conferences
Number of teams 55 US
8 Canadian
Levels on pyramid 4 (US), 4 (CA)
Promotion to None
Relegation to None
Domestic cup(s) Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Current champions Michigan Bucks
(2014)
Most championships Cape Cod Crusaders
Central Coast Roadrunners
Michigan Bucks
Chicago Sockers
(2 titles each)
Website www.uslpdl.com
2014 PDL season
PDL logo used until 2010

The USL Premier Development League (commonly known as the PDL) is the pro development league of the United Soccer Leagues in the United States, Canada, and Bermuda, forming part of the American Soccer Pyramid. It is currently the top-level men's amateur soccer competition in the United States, and has 62 teams competing in four conferences, split into nine regional divisions; unofficially, it is considered to be the fourth tier of competition, behind Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and the USL Professional Division, and roughly equal with the National Premier Soccer League.

Michigan Bucks are the reigning PDL champions, having defeated the Kitsap Pumas 1–0 in the 2014 PDL Championship game on August 3, 2014.

While not strictly a "professional" league in the sense that the majority of players do not receive payment, the PDL prides itself on its professionalism in terms of its organization and the way the league is run, and its dedication to developing young soccer players, preparing them for future careers in professional leagues in the United States and elsewhere. As PDL seasons take place during the summer months, the player pool is drawn mainly from elite NCAA college soccer players seeking to continue playing high-level soccer during their summer break, which they can do while still maintaining their college eligibility.

However, in recent years, teams such as Laredo Heat, New Orleans Jesters, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23, Kitsap Pumas and the Hollywood United Hitmen have been embracing at least partial professionalism through a new program called PDL-Pro, whereby teams can choose to employ players who are paid for their performances,[1] but who still meet the age eligibility criteria. This does not contravene NCAA rules, which state that college players cannot play alongside professionals, but may play against them. What this also means, however, is that PDL-Pro teams cannot have any active NCAA players on their rosters, but may employ NAIA and community college players, ex-NCAA players who have already graduated, or other local players who do not play college soccer at all.

In addition, PDL squads often also include standout high school and junior club players, as well as former professionals seeking to continue competing at a high level, often having been forced to retire from top flight competition due to age or injury. PDL rules dictate that a maximum of eight players on each team's 26-man roster can be over 23 years old, while at least three players on each team's roster must be 18 or younger.

Increasingly, the PDL is seen as a 'shop window' for professional clubs looking to discover and identify aspiring professional players who may enter the MLS SuperDraft in future years. Many of the players currently playing in Major League Soccer and elsewhere began their careers in the PDL.

History[edit]

1990s[edit]

The Richmond Kickers were the first ever PDL (USISL) champions in 1995.

In 1995 the United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL) changed its name to the United States International Soccer League, and split into two leagues, one professional (the 'Professional League', which ultimately became the USL Second Division) and one amateur (the 'Premier League'). The purpose for the split was to expand into and improve the soccer capabilities of many urban areas throughout the United States and Canada, while offering current college soccer players the opportunity to continue playing during the summer months without losing their college eligibility. The inaugural season of the new USISL Premier League featured 27 teams, and the Richmond Kickers won the first title, beating the Cocoa Expos 3–1 in the championship game.[2] Gabe Jones of the Austin Lone Stars was the league's top scorer and MVP.

The United States International Soccer League changed its name again in 1996, to the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues, and before the season, there was substantial movement of teams between the Pro League, the Premier League and the newly created Select League (which would later merge with the A-League, and eventually become the USL First Division). The Premier League grew to 34 teams in its sophomore year, with the Central Coast Roadrunners from San Luis Obispo, California beating the San Francisco Bay Seals in the championship game to take the title.[3] Pasi Kinturi of the Nashville Metros was the league's top scorer and MVP.

Brian Ching was the PDL Rookie of the Year in 1998

The Premier League renamed itself the Premier Development Soccer League (PDSL) in 1997, and the Central Coast Roadrunners repeated as national champions, the first team to do so, beating the Cocoa Expos in the PDSL championship game.[4] Lester Felicia of the Jackson Chargers was the league's MVP, while Rodrigo Costa of the Detroit Dynamite was the leading scorer and the league's Rookie of the Year, tallying 21 goals and 2 assists for 44 points. In 1998 the PDSL took to the field with 33 teams, including four associate members from the Pacific Coast Soccer League who played shortened schedules after their PCSL season was over. In the championship game the San Gabriel Valley Highlanders upset regular season champions Jackson Chargers 3-2, taking the trophy to California for the third straight year. Rodrigo Costa of the Detroit Dynamite was the league MVP, Boniventure Manati of the Jackson Chargers was the league's top scorer, and a young striker by the name of Brian Ching from the Spokane Shadow was named Rookie of the Year.[5]

In 1999 the umbrella USISL changed its name to the United Soccer Leagues, and the Premier Development Soccer League dropped the 'soccer' part of its name and became known as the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League, or PDL. The league took in several teams from the D3Pro league, expanding to 42 teams in six divisions. Expansion franchise Chicago Sockers ultuimately won the league, beating Spokane Shadow 3–1 for the title in a tight championship game. Fabio Eidenwein of the Sioux City Breeze was named League MVP and was the top scorer, with 20 goals.[6]

2000s[edit]

The PDL expanded by a further eight franchises in 2000, and the Chicago Sockers won their second straight title, beating the Mid-Michigan Bucks in a close 1–0 championship game. The single goal was scored by Rodrigo Costa who, having received a pass from teammate Hamid Mehreioskouei, chipped Bucks goalkeeper Eric Pogue from 18 yards through a crowded penalty area. Fernando Salazar of the Los Angeles-based San Fernando Valley Heroes was the league's MVP, while his teammate Arshak Abyanli took the honors as top goalscorer.[7]

Laredo Heat became the first team to reach three consecutive PDL finals in 2008

The league grew from 41 to 44 teams in 2001 through the usual mix of relegation from D3Pro, teams folding and new franchises being added. In the semifinals, the Westchester Flames defeated Sioux Falls Spitfire 5–1 and Calgary Storm defeated Des Moines Menace 2–1; in the final, Westchester defeated Calgary 3–1 to take their first league title.[8] Des Moines and Chicago Fire Reserves dominated the 2002 regular season, but both teams stuttered in the playoffs; the PDL final saw the Cape Cod Crusaders defeating the Boulder Rapids Reserve 2–1 to bring the title to the Northeast for the second year in a row. 2002 also saw the debut of the soon-to-be PDL legend, Tomas Boltnar of Des Moines Menace, who secured an unprecedented triple-crown of PDL MVP, Top Scorer and Rookie of the Year.[9]

The mid-2000s was a period of steady growth and consolidation for the PDL. A TV agreement with Fox Soccer Channel saw the PDL Championship game being broadcast live on national television in North America for the first time, and professional teams began investing in the league by adding U-23 development sides as an addition to their senior rosters. Cape Cod repeated as PDL champs in 2003, beating the Chicago Fire Reserves in the final[10] (and despite the presence of Jürgen Klinsmann playing for Orange County Blue Star), while 2004 saw the title head to Florida for the first time as the Central Florida Kraze overcame perennial bridesmaids Boulder Rapids Reserve.[11]

Des Moines Menace took the PDL Championship trophy back to Iowa in 2005 after beating the El Paso Patriots 6–5 on penalty kicks, following a 0–0 draw in the PDL Championship game.[12][13] 2006 saw the beginning of two seasons of dominance for two teams: the Michigan Bucks and the Laredo Heat. Both teams made the PDL Final in 2006 and 2007, with the Bucks emerging victorious in '06 with a 2–1 win thanks to goals by Kenny Uzoigwe and Ty Shipalane,[14][15] only for Laredo to get their revenge the following year with an epic penalty kicks win after a 0–0 tie in regulation time.

Laredo became the first team to make three consecutive PDL championship games in 2008, but fell at the final hurdle to Thunder Bay Chill, who became the first ever Canadian side to win the PDL following their 4–1 penalty shootout victory.[16] The PDL had grown to 68 teams by 2009, and to reflect their growing reputation, introduced a new scheme called PDL-Pro, whereby certain teams would be allowed to act as professional clubs, paying players, while still adhering to NCAA collegiate eligibility rules, and the USL's own age restriction policy. Ventura County Fusion returned the PDL title to Southern California for the first time in over a decade with a stoppage-time victory over Chicago Fire Premier, and in doing so became the lowest-seeded team to claim the national title.[17]

USL Premier Development League is located in USA
Locations of USL PDL franchises. Blue = Eastern Conference, Orange = Southern, Green = Central, Red = Western
v · t · e

2010s[edit]

The 2010s began with a record, as the Portland Timbers U23s ended the season as national champions, beating Thunder Bay Chill 4–1 in the 2010 PDL Championship game.[18] The Timbers also had the best regular season record, winning all their 16 games, scoring 53 goals and conceding just six along the way. In doing so the Timbers became the first team to post a perfect PDL regular season record since the Jackson Chargers in 1998,[19] the first regular season champion to win the playoffs since the Central Coast Roadrunners in 1996, and the first team in PDL history to go through an entire PDL regular season and playoff campaign without posting a loss or a tie. Portland Timbers U23s striker Brent Richards was named League MVP and Rookie of the Year for his stellar campaign with the national champions. Players from Canadian side Thunder Bay Chill led the majority of the statistical categories, with striker Brandon Swartzendruber leading the league with 15 goals, while his teammate Gustavo Oliveira led the league with 13 assists. Portland Timbers U23s goalkeeper Jacob Gleeson enjoyed the best goalkeeping statistics, allowing just five goals in 15 games and earning with a 0.360 GAA average.[20]

Western Conference teams dominated the league in 2011 for the third year in a row, with the Kitsap Pumas ending the season as national champions, beating Laredo Heat 1–0 in the 2011 PDL Championship game. Kitsap, who lost just one game and conceded just ten goals all season, were the second team from the Northwest Division to win the national title in a row, while Laredo were contesting their fourth championship game in six years. Interestingly, Kitsap also were the first PDL-Pro team to win the championship, a milestone for the league. Kitsap's Western Conference rivals Fresno Fuego had the best regular-season record, posting an unbeaten 13–0–3 record. Fresno midfielder Milton Blanco was named League MVP, after leading the league in points (38) and assists (14) and helping his team to the Southwest Division title. Two Michigan Bucks players – Stewart Givens and Mitch Hildebrandt – were given end-of-season awards as Defender of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year respectively, while their coach Gary Parsons was named Coach of the Year. Jake Keegan of the Westchester Flames was named Rookie of the Year after tallying 16 goals in 16 games to take the league goal-scoring crown. Keegan accounted for 64 percent of Westchester's goals in 2011 and also finished third in the league in points with 34.[21]

The 2012 PDL season would see a resurgence of the Eastern Conference, as the Michigan Bucks would claim the regular season title, with Canadian rivals Forest City London winning their first ever PDL Championship in an East coast contest, defeating Carolina Dynamo 2–1.[22] Canadian clubs would also have another strong season in 2013, with four of eight Canadian clubs finishing in the final eight and two, the Victoria Highlanders and Thunder Bay Chill, advancing to the semi-finals.[23] After a final four finish in 2012, The Chill would repeat their strong season, winning the 2013 regular season title but falling to the Austin Aztex in the Championship final 3–1 in front of a crowd of 4,253 fans, the largest attendance for a final since 2007.[24][25]

Current Clubs[edit]

Team Country City/Area Stadium Founded Head Coach
Eastern Conference
Mid Atlantic Division
Baltimore Bohemians U.S. Baltimore, Maryland Paul Angelo Russo Stadium 2011 United States Santino Quaranta
F.A. Euro U.S. New York, New York Soccer Stadium at Baker Field 2012 Italy Joe Balsamo
Jersey Express S.C. U.S. Newark, New Jersey Lubetkin Field 2007 Russia George Vichniakov
Long Island Rough Riders U.S. South Huntington, New York St. Anthony's High School 1994 England Paul Roderick
NJ-LUSO Parma U.S. Denville, New Jersey Morris Catholic High School 2007 Portugal Carlos Rasolio
Northern Virginia Royals U.S. Woodbridge, Virginia Hellwig Memorial Field Stadium 1998 England Richie Burke
Ocean City Nor'easters U.S. Ocean City, New Jersey Carey Stadium 1996 England Neil Holloway
Reading United A.C. U.S. Reading, Pennsylvania Gurski Stadium 1996 Republic of Ireland Brendan Burke
Northeast Division
AC Connecticut U.S. Hamden, Connecticut Westside Athletic Complex 2011 United States David Kelly
GPS Portland Phoenix U.S. Portland, Maine Memorial Stadium 2009 England Paul Baber
Montreal Impact Academy Canada Montreal, Quebec Saputo Stadium Turf Field 2013 France Philippe Eullaffroy
Real Boston Rams [26] U.S. Weymouth, Massachusetts Weymouth High School 2013 United States Jimmy Costa
Seacoast United Phantoms U.S. Portsmouth, New Hampshire Portsmouth High School 1996 United States Stefano Franciosa
Vermont Voltage U.S. St. Albans, Vermont Collins-Perley Sports Complex 1997 Serbia Bo Simic
Westchester Flames U.S. New Rochelle, New York City Park Stadium 1999 Greece Gus Skoufis
Western Mass Pioneers U.S. Ludlow, Massachusetts Lusitano Stadium 1998 United States Joe Calabrese
South Atlantic Division
Carolina Dynamo U.S. Greensboro, North Carolina Macpherson Stadium 1993 England Marc Nicholls
Cincinnati Dutch Lions U.S. Cincinnati, Ohio Xavier University Soccer Complex 2013 England Terry Nicholl
Derby City Rovers U.S. Louisville, Kentucky Christian Academy of Louisville 2010 United States Muhamed Fazlagic
Palmetto FC Bantams U.S. Greenwood, South Carolina Lander Soccer Complex 2012 United States Van Taylor
Southern West Virginia King's Warriors U.S. Bluefield, West Virginia East River Soccer Complex 2012 United States Scott Reitnour
West Virginia Chaos U.S. Charleston, West Virginia Schoenbaum Stadium 2003 England Chris Grassie
Southern Conference
Southeast Division
IMG Academy Bradenton U.S. Bradenton, Florida IMG Academy 1998 United States Scott Dean
Floridians FC [27] U.S. Fort Lauderdale, Florida Central Broward Regional Park 2013 TBD
Ocala Stampede U.S. Ocala, Florida Trinity Catholic Celtics Stadium 2011 United States Cheyne Roberts
Orlando City U-23 U.S. Lake Mary, Florida Showalter Field 1998 United States Paul Shaw
Panama City Beach Pirates U.S. Panama City, Florida Mike Gavlak Stadium 2011 United States Greg DeVito
SW Florida Adrenaline [28] U.S. Fort Myers, Florida Barron Collier High School 2013 England John Robinson
Mid South Division
Austin Aztex U.S. Austin, Texas House Park 2011 Scotland Paul Dalglish
Houston Dutch Lions U.S. Shenandoah, Texas Woodforest Bank Stadium 2011 Netherlands Marco Pruis
Laredo Heat U.S. Laredo, Texas Texas A&M International Soccer Complex 2004 Mexico Israel Collazo
Mississippi Brilla U.S. Jackson, Mississippi Harper Davis Stadium 2006 United States Dave Dixon
Midland/Odessa Sockers U.S. Midland, Texas Grande Communications Stadium 2008 TBA
Central Conference
Great Lakes Division
Chicago Fire Premier U.S. Bridgeview, Illinois Toyota Park Turf Field 2001 United Kingdom Mark Spooner
Forest City London Canada London, Ontario German-Canadian Club of London Field 2008 Canada Martin Painter
K-W United FC Canada Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario University Stadium (Waterloo, Ontario) 2010 Canada Stuart Neely
Michigan Bucks U.S. Pontiac, Michigan Ultimate Soccer Arenas 1995 United States Gary Parsons
Pittsburgh Riverhounds U23 U.S. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Highmark Stadium 2013 TBA
Toronto Lynx Canada Toronto, Ontario Centennial Park Stadium 1997 England Duncan Wilde
Heartland Division
Des Moines Menace U.S. Des Moines, Iowa Valley Stadium 1994 United States Mike Jeffries
Springfield Demize U.S. Springfield, Missouri Cooper Sports Complex 1997 Republic of Ireland Ian Henry
St. Louis Lions U.S. St. Louis, Missouri Tony Glavin Soccer Complex 2006 Scotland Tony Glavin
Thunder Bay Chill Canada Thunder Bay, Ontario Chapples Park Stadium 2000 Canada Tony Colistro
WSA Winnipeg Canada Winnipeg, Manitoba John Scouras Field 2010 Romania Eduardo Badescu
Western Conference
Northwest Division
Kitsap Pumas U.S. Bremerton, Washington Bremerton Memorial Stadium 2008 United States Peter Fewing
Lane United FC U.S. Eugene, Oregon Willamalane Center 2013 United States John Galas
Portland Timbers U23s U.S. Portland, Oregon Providence Park 2008 United States Jim Rilatt
Puget Sound Gunners FC U.S. Everett, Washington Goddard Memorial Stadium 2010 Brazil Alex Silva
Seattle Sounders FC U-23 U.S. Pierce County, Washington TBA 2006 United States Darren Sawatzky
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 Canada Vancouver, British Columbia Thunderbird Stadium 2005 Scotland Stuart Neely
Victoria Highlanders Canada Victoria, British Columbia Royal Athletic Park 2008 Canada Steve Simonson
Washington Crossfire U.S. Seattle, Washington Redmond High School 2007 United States Seth Spidahl
Mountain Division
Albuquerque Sol FC U.S. Albuquerque, New Mexico Ben Rios Field 2013 United States Chris Cartlidge
BYU Cougars U.S. Provo, Utah The Stadium at South Field 1995 United States Chris Watkins
FC Tucson U.S. Tucson, Arizona Kino Sports Complex 2010 United States Rick Schantz
Las Vegas Mobsters U.S. Las Vegas, Nevada Peter Johann Memorial Field 2013 England Tony Asquith
Real Colorado Foxes U.S. Highlands Ranch, Colorado Shea Stadium 2008 United States Leigh Davies
Southwest Division
Fresno Fuego U.S. Fresno, California Chukchansi Park 2003 United States Scott Alcorn
Los Angeles Misioneros U.S. Los Angeles, California California State University, San Bernardino 2006 Mexico Marlon Iván León
OC Pateadores Blues U.S. Costa Mesa, California Vanguard University Stadium 2011 United States Federico Bianchi
San Jose Earthquakes U23 U.S. Turlock, California Cal State Stanislaus 2013 United States Dana Taylor
Southern California Seahorses U.S. La Mirada, California Biola University 2001 United States Johnny Juarez-Jackman
Ventura County Fusion U.S. Ventura, California Ventura College 2006 United States Ole Mikkelsen

Champions[edit]

Complete team list[edit]

Notable professional players with PDL experience[edit]

Many senior international players had their first taste of competitive league experience playing in the PDL. This list includes players who, after playing in the PDL, have achieved some kind of significant success as a professional soccer player - playing internationally for their country, playing in one of the world's top leagues (such as the Premier League in England), being a #1 draft pick, or winning a major award such as the MLS Rookie of the Year award or the MAC Hermann Trophy, which is awarded to the best college soccer player of a given year and is American soccer's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Average attendance[edit]

Attendance stats are calculated by averaging each team's self-reported home attendances from the historical match archive at http://www.uslsoccer.com/history/index_E.html, and then averaging this league-wide.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "United Soccer Leagues (USL)". Pdl.uslsoccer.com. December 17, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ "United Soccer Leagues, Part 2 (1994-1996)". Homepages.sover.net. February 13, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Year in American Soccer, 1996". Homepages.sover.net. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ "United Soccer Leagues, Part 3 (1997-1999)". Homepages.sover.net. February 13, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Year in American Soccer, 1998". Homepages.sover.net. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Year in American Soccer, 1999". Homepages.sover.net. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  7. ^ "United Soccer Leagues, Part 4 (2000-2003)". Homepages.sover.net. February 14, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  8. ^ "United Soccer Leagues, Part 4 (2000-2003)". Homepages.sover.net. February 14, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ "United Soccer Leagues, Part 4 (2000-2003)". Homepages.sover.net. February 14, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Cape Cod repeats as champion with 1–0 shutout of Chicago". Soccertimes.com. August 9, 2003. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Cook scores late to send Central Florida past Rapids Reserve for title". Soccertimes.com. August 7, 2004. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Des Moines captures PDL title in seven rounds of penalties". Pdl.uslsoccer.com. August 13, 2005. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Gruenebaum, Frieberg lead Menace past El Paso for title in penalty kicks". Soccertimes.com. August 13, 2005. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Uzoigwe, Shipalane power Michigan to first championship 2–1 over Heat". Soccertimes.com. August 12, 2006. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  15. ^ Demosphere International, Inc. (August 12, 2006). "United Soccer Leagues (USL)". Uslsoccer.com. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Chill stay cool to win PDL title". Uslsoccer.com. August 9, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Fusion overcome Fire for PDL title". Uslsoccer.com. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Perfection in Portland". Pdl.uslsoccer.com. August 7, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Timbers Make History at Kitsap; Portland Becomes First Unblemished Team Since 1998". Uslsoccer.com. July 18, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Chill Dominate Season Honors". Pdl.uslsoccer.com. July 27, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Bucks Highlight PDL Award Winners". Uslsoccer.com. August 5, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  22. ^ "FC London Claims PDL Championship". USLPDL.com. August 4, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Canadian clubs turning heads with PDL success". WakingTheRed.com. July 29, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Clubs set for PDL Championship". USLPDL.com. August 1, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Aztex Claim PDL Championship". USLPDL.com. August 4, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Real Boston Rams Join PDL". uslsoccer.com. December 10, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Floridians F.C. Joins PDL". United Soccer Leagues (USL). December 20, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  28. ^ "SW Florida Soccer Club Joins PDL". Uslsoccer.com. August 21, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2012. 

External links[edit]