TAMPA, Fla. – The PDL announced on Thursday it had awarded a new franchise to San Diego for the 2016 season. The club will be owned and operated by the San Diego Sports Authority under the leadership of President Chase Yamauchi, with San Diego Zest FC set to compete at UC San Diego’s Triton Field as one of its locations in its inaugural season.
“San Diego has for a long time been a target city for the PDL,” said league director Todd Eason. “We are very excited the outstanding leadership of the San Diego Sports Authority will be the group that brings the league to a great soccer city, and are looking forward to working with the club for many years to come.”
Zest FC will provide a new platform for players from one of the strongest soccer hotbeds in the country to make the transition to the professional ranks. Nomads FC, the San Diego Surf and Albion SC have all consistently produced top-level talent in the region’s youth ranks. Zest FC aims to provide an outlet for those players as they move into the college ranks, and help them push toward a professional career.
“Establishing a PDL club in San Diego is essential to accelerate the development of professional soccer players from our local community,” said Yamauchi. “We would like our new soccer club to be considered San Diego’s most valuable soccer team, giving players the opportunity to join the professional ranks not only in the United States, but around the world.”
The highest level of amateur soccer in North America, the PDL has a history dating back more than two decades that has helped top-level players rise to the professional ranks. Among the PDL’s alumni are players such as U.S. Men’s National Team members Brad Guzan, DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes and Geoff Cameron. More than 200 PDL alumni competed in the 2015 Major League Soccer season, with another group of league alumni set to begin their professional paths following the 2016 MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore, Md.
The PDL has provided a major development platform for future professional players, with 12 of the league’s current membership being owned and operated by an MLS or USL club, or holding a partnership with an MLS or USL club. 70 percent of the players selected in the MLS SuperDraft over the past seven years are PDL alumni, while Homegrown Players such as Gyasi Zardes, Harry Shipp, Darwin Jones and Jay Chapman also competed in the league on their path to the professional ranks.
The PDL has received strong support from both Major League Soccer and the USL as it provides a proven pathway to the professional ranks for top college-aged players in North America.