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The Premier Development League is preparing for its 23rd season, and all signs point to 2017 being another step forward for the league.
“The league enjoyed a highly successful year of operation, building upon a successful rebrand at the 2015 Winter Summit with elevated standards, a high level of play on the field and the commitment to quality operations,” PDL Director Todd Eason said. “We continue to focus on adding franchises with strong ownership groups that strive to help develop college-aged players on their path to the pros but also have high quality at the operational level and are involved in their surrounding community.”
The 2016 PDL campaign saw 67 teams across four conferences – Southern, Eastern, Central and Western – compete across North America, with 12 new teams joining the league before the start of the season.
“The evolution and growth of the league has been great to see,” Des Moines Menace General Manager Matt Homonoff said at the Winter Summit. “Just like any other league, the positive trends are when low-end teams drop out and they are replaced by higher-end teams, so as I look back on my four years in the league, it’s great to see the overall quality of franchises continue to rise on what seems like a yearly basis.
“So everything from raising minimum standards to the quality of play on the field to [league] initiatives, such as live streaming of games, all of those things combine to make this the obvious destination of choice for teams that value an inherently amateur experience, but with a path to professional soccer.”
A total of 19 teams took part in the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, with nine teams reaching the Second Round. The Menace enjoyed another successful Open Cup campaign, playing a professional team in the competition for the ninth and 10th time in franchise history. After securing a 2-0 win against USL club Tulsa Roughnekcs FC, the Menace nearly pulled off another impressive upset against San Antonio FC in the Third Round but fell, 2-1. For a second consecutive year, the Jersey Express also faced off against a professional club. In 2015, the Express topped USL’s New York Red Bulls II before falling to the New York Cosmos, who again topped the Express after a hard-fought battle in 2016.
A thrilling regular season, which included 1,301 goals scored across North America, ended with the Fresno Fuego, FC Tucson, Calgary Foothills FC, OKC Energy U23, The Villages SC, Michigan Bucks, Charlotte Eagles, Reading United, GPS Portland Phoenix and Menace securing divisional titles.
The Phoenix, Ocean City Nor’easters, Reading United, Western Mass Pioneers, Carolina Dynamo, SC United Bantams, Fuego, Burlingame Dragons FC, Foothills FC, Sounders FC U23, San Diego Zest FC and FC Golden State Force kicked off the 2016 PDL Playoffs in the divisional qualification round. The Nor’easters, w