USL Premier Development League: Wikis

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USL Premier Development League
Pdllogo.jpg
Countries  United States
 Canada
 Bermuda
Confederation US Soccer
Founded 1995
Divisions 8
Number of teams 68
Promotion to None
Relegation to None
Levels on pyramid 4
Domestic cup(s) Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Current champions Ventura County Fusion (2009)
Most championships Cape Cod Crusaders
Central Coast Roadrunners
Chicago Sockers
(2 titles each)
TV partners Fox Soccer Channel
Website Official site in English
Soccerball current event.svg PDL 2010

The USL Premier Development League (PDL) is the amateur league of the United Soccer Leagues in the United States and Canada, forming part of the American Soccer Pyramid. It is currently the top level men's amateur competition in the United States, and has 68 teams competing in four conferences, split into eight regional divisions; unofficially, it is considered to be the fourth tier of competition, behind Major League Soccer, the USSF Division 2 (comprising the USL First Division and the North American Soccer League) and the USL Second Division, and roughly equal with the National Premier Soccer League and the Pacific Coast Soccer League.

California-based side Ventura County Fusion are the reigning PDL champions, having beaten Chicago Fire Premier 2-1 in the 2009 PDL Championship game on 8 August, 2009.[1]

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 Residency, 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 non-NCAA players who are paid for their performances[2], 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.

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.

Contents

History

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1990s

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 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 inagural 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.[3]. 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.[4]. 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 re-named 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 [5]. 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, talling 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.[6]

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.[7].

2000s

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 penaltty 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.[8].

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.[9] 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.[10]

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

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[11] (and despite the presence of Jurgen 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[12].

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.[13][14]. 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[15][16], 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.[17]. 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.[18]

2010 Teams

USA States with PDL teams are highlighted in red, Canadian Provinces with PDL teams are in dark red, 2010 expansion teams included

Central Conference

Great Lakes Division

Heartland Division

Eastern Conference

Mid Atlantic Division

Northeast Division

Southern Conference

Mid South Division

Southeast Division

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Southwest Division

Champions

Teams with best regular season record

Complete team list

Notable professional players with PDL experience

Average Attendance

Regular season

  • 2009:
  • 2008:
  • 2007: 516
  • 2006: 561
  • 2005: 503
  • 2004: 455
  • 2003: 492
  • 2002: 463
  • 2001: 410
  • 2000: 423
  • 1999: 385
  • 1998: 317
  • 1997: 304
  • 1996: 256
  • 1995: 290

Playoffs

  • 2009:
  • 2008:
  • 2007:
  • 2006: 895
  • 2005: 912
  • 2004: 877
  • 2003: 703
  • 2002: 560
  • 2001: 530
  • 2000: 481
  • 1999: 407
  • 1998: 416
  • 1997: 397
  • 1996: 218
  • 1995: 182

References

External links


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