TAMPA, Fla. – The Premier Development League has awarded Tobacco Road FC, based in Durham, North Carolina, a franchise ahead of the 2017 season.
“The Carolinas have many talented college-aged players with a desire to play the game at the professional level, and Tobacco Road FC will offer those players a high-quality platform for development,” PDL Director Todd Eason said. “With a strong ownership group, Tobacco Road FC will fit right in alongside well-run PDL franchises, such as the Charlotte Eagles and Carolina Dynamo, and a Wilmington Hammerheads franchise that already has strong roots in the soccer landscape.”
Founded in 2013, Tobacco Road will play its home matches at Durham County Memorial Stadium.
“Tobacco Road FC is extremely excited to join the Premier Development League as an expansion franchise for the 2017 season,” founding partners Seth Kaplan and Cedric Burke said in a joint statement. “The PDL offers a competitive environment that is directly aligned with the short- and long-term goals of our club. We look forward to utilizing the platform afforded through the PDL to grow the game of soccer and develop partnerships that enhance our local community.”
Kaplan was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and was a standout player for Chapel Hill High School prior to pursuing a successful career in hotel management. In 2011, Kaplan returned to his hometown to raise his family and reconnect with his local roots. Currently the Director of Operations for the renowned The Carolina Inn, Kaplan re-established his passion for the game and immersed himself into the local adult leagues where he and Cedric Burke met and developed the vision for bringing Tobacco Road FC to the Chapel Hill and Durham markets.
Raised in Durham, Burke starred at Jordan High School prior to a successful playing career at Duke University. Burke has had professional success in the local banking industry and currently serves as an Executive for Maryland-based lender Homeside Financial. His allegiance to the Durham and Chapel Hill markets has been steady and consistent – both as an active community leader and soccer player. He has served as Tobacco Road FC’s captain for several years. As his competitive playing days conclude, Burke is passionate about leading a team and organization committed to delivering the professional soccer experience to his hometown.
Durham is the state’s fourth-largest market and is historically known as the “Bull City,” stemming from the post-civil war popularity of the Bull Durham Tobacco Company. The city has transformed from its manufacturing and farming roots into “The City of Medicine” and has become a highly regarded focal point in the health care, pharmaceutical and technology industries. Durham is home to Duke University and North Carolina Central University, and the city serves as one of the vertices of the internationally acclaimed Research Triangle Park.
Helping high-caliber players rise to the professional ranks, the PDL serves as a major development platform for players in North America. A total of 67 teams across four conferences took part in the 2016 PDL regular season.
U.S. Men’s National Team members Brad Guzan, DeAndre Yedlin, Sacha Kljestan and Geoff Cameron, as well as 2016 Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year Jordan Morris and 2016 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Hedges, are among the many PDL alums currently competing professionally. More than 200 PDL alumni participated in the 2016 MLS regular season, while more than 350 former players competed in the 2016 United Soccer League campaign.