The South Atlantic Division, home of the 2017 PDL Champion Charlotte Eagles and 2017 New PDL Franchise of the Year Myrtle Beach Mutiny welcome, welcomes Lionsbridge FC to the fold in 2018.
Joining the storied, strong division brings both challenges and excitement to Lionsbridge FC’s inaugural season. In addition to the high-level competition the club will participate in during the 2018 campaign, Lionsbridge’s inaugural season is full of opportunity to prove itself as the hometown team of the Virginia Peninsula, an opportunity club president and owner Mike Vest, along with fellow owners Kevin Joyce and Dan Chenoweth, is eager to seize.
Vest and his club have been very active already this offseason, securing sponsors, beginning to build the foundations of a competitive roster and making their presence known to their local community. Aside from securing a major jersey sponsor in Chick-Fil-A and partnerships with local organizations like Mosquito Joe, Tradition Brewing Company and Riverside Regional Medical Center, Lionsbridge have been hard at work building a club where local families can enjoy a night out in a festive environment they can be proud to call their own. During this busy time, Vest spoke with USLPDL.com to discuss the club’s progress, decision to join the PDL and goals for the 2018 season.
A part of the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the Division II USL, the newly-announced USL Division III and Super Y League, the PDL has served as the proven stepping-stone for aspiring professionals.
More than 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections since 2010 have PDL experience, including a total of 66 alums chosen in 2018. Among the many players to have played in the PDL before making their professional debuts include Newcastle United FC defender DeAndre Yedlin, 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia, 2017 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara and U.S. Men’s National Team members such as Darlington Nagbe, Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream.
PDL: What factors led you to seek PDL membership in 2018?
Mike Vest: As a new team built from scratch, our focus has been building a team for the community we love. For the first time, the Virginia Peninsula has a true hometown team to call its own. As we did our homework to determine the best league to fit our goals, the PDL was the best answer. It’s exciting to be part of a league that annually proves to be a launching pad for so many professional players. The PDL has welcomed us with open arms and has been entirely supportive of our vision for the type of club we are building at Lionsbridge FC.
PDL: How was your first experience at the PDL Winter Summit?
MV: It was tremendous. It was great to get to know the PDL leadership and our divisional opponents. The league continues to flourish and is in great position to continue an upward trajectory. We left Tampa energized and ready for 2018.
PDL: How are you approaching early 2018 in terms of preparation for the upcoming season?
MV: The early 2018 priorities have been to build a coaching staff and start roster construction. That is off to a great start. On the business side, we are continuing to expand our coalition of supporters, sponsors, community partners and youth organizations to help make Lionsbridge FC part of the fabric of the community for a very long time.
PDL: What are you most looking forward to in your inaugural PDL season?
MV: Probably the biggest thing is seeing all of the hard work, planning and preparation finally come to life. Our home-opener will be a special day not only for owners, coaches and players — but also for the wider community of supporters and partners who have come together to build something that we’ve never had before.
PDL: You’re joining a very competitive region for the PDL, with teams like the defending PDL Champions Charlotte Eagles, the PDL New Franchise of the Year Myrtle Beach Mutiny and many more. What does competing against that level of competition mean to you?
MV: It’s exciting. As a competitor, you always want to take on the best competition and see where you stack up. The bar in our division has been set super high.
PDL: What are some goals you’d like to achieve as a club in 2018?
MV: Like everyone else, we are aiming high from a competitive standpoint. We expect to field a team that our supporters can be proud of. Off the field, we are laying the foundation for the future, developing a culture both on and off the pitch with our players, supporters, sponsors and community partners. Those are the pieces that will set us up for success for years to come.