Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics
With the NCAA Division I college season kicking off on Friday, a plethora of players from the final edition of the 2017 PDL Top Prospects list play in big-time matches this weekend.
With a bevy of top-25 clashes on the weekend slate, it'll be a struggle to choose where to cast your attention. To help, here are five big matches worth watching this weekend.
The opening slate of matches on Friday includes seven of the top-ten players on the PDL Top Prospects list in action, and many more among the remainder of the list.
The action slows down slightly on Saturday, with just four matches on the schedule on the first day of the weekend, but kicks right back into full gear on Sunday with another 53 contests set to entertain.
A plethora of PDL Top Prospects take the field in South Carolina as the Clemson Tigers kick off their season.
When the Tigers kick off on Friday evening, they'll do so with three big-time prospects on their roster. SIMA Aguilas forward and No. 5 prospect Diego Campos stars up top, and he'll be joined by No. 8 prospect Tanner Dieterich of the Nashville SC U23 and No. 11 prospect and Aguilas teammate Malick Sarr Mbaye in defense as well.
The Tigers take on Cal State Fullerton with a roster that features nine PDL players of their own. Whether that glut of talent will be enough to overcome a trio of top prospects will be fun to discover.
The season for the Duke Blue Devils kicks off on Friday night against UCF under the lights at the John Rennie Nike Invitational.
The Blue Devils will be led by No. 1 PDL prospect Brian White, who is coming off a fantastic season with the New York Red Bulls U23. White notched a stunning 17 goals and three assists over the Red Bulls U23's 14 matches, en route to a Mid Atlantic Division Title.
On the other side of the field are a bevy of PDL players, including Zachary Waitman of the Aguilas and Matthew Rosenberg and Walker Dawkins of South Georgia Tormenta FC. They're joined by Georg Feldschmied Armstrong of the Southern California Surf and Neicolance Regent of Reading United AC.
More PDL Top Prospects open their season on Friday in NAIA competition.
The No. 19-ranked John Brown University Golden Eagles open their season Friday night against Mobile, and leading the charge will be No. 44 PDL Top Prospect Kelvin Omondi, coming off a title-winning season with the Charlotte Eagles. He'll be joined by teammate and PDL Championship MVP Ryan Williams, the No. 14 Prospect.
They'll aim to start their season on the right foot against Mobile, as they're sure to have an early eye on a potential championship push.
Another high-ranking PDL Top Prospect opens his NCAA Division I season on Friday, as the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest get their season underway.
Ranked No. 2 to open the season, the Demon Deacons have aspirations of knocking the Stanford Cardinal off its perch. Leading the effort for Wake Forest is No. 3 PDL Top Prospect Bradley Dunwell of the Michigan Bucks. Joining him is No. 34 Prospect Kevin Politz of the Red Bulls U23, as well as PDL Goal of the Playoffs winner Bruno Lapa of the Aguilas.
They'll take on the Southern Florida Surf's Ethan Decker, the Tri-Cities Otters' Federico Gutierrez and Rutgers to open their season with what should be a thoroughly entertaining match in front of the home Wake Forest crowd.
Another pair of PDL talents will be on display in Saturday's NAIA action.
Reading United AC's Jorge Guinovart and the Thunder Bay Chill's Mitchell Osmond, who was named 2017 PDL Defender of the Year, join forces on Saturday for the No. 2-ranked Rio Grande Red Storm's second match of their young season. After Osmond helped pitch a shutout and scored a goal in the team's season-opening win earlier in the week, he and Guinovart will look to repeat their success and stay on their title-favorite track.
They'll take on Roosevelt of Illinois in their second match of the fall. If Osmond and the defense can keep another clean sheet, the offense should be able to earn the Red Storm a victory.
Multiple PDL standouts from the 2017 regular season are set to take the field when Seattle hosts New Mexico on Sunday, including U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team and FC Tucson defender Aaron Herrera.
Among the numerous talents on Seattle who competed this summer include Nathan Aune and Sergio Rivas of the Sounders FC U23 and Ozzie Ramos of FC Tucson. Ramos helped Tucson clinch the Mountain Division title in 2017, appearing in eight total matches – which includes the team's contest in the PDL Playoffs.
While Herrera headlines the list of PDL players set to lead the Lobos this fall, a number of other talents competed this summer. Sam Gleadle and Grayson Dupont of Albuquerque Sol F.C. each played more than 800 minutes this summer. Gleadle led Sol F.C. in goals scored with six.