PDL / Abu Danladi at 2017 Major League Soccer SuperDraft
For many of the draftees at the 2017 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, competing in the Premier Development League served as a key steppingstone on their paths to the professional level.
A total of 31 PDL alums, including No. 1 overall selection Abu Danladi, were selected by MLS clubs in Los Angeles, California, on Friday. Four of the first five draft picks, Danladi, Miles Robinson (No. 2), Jeremy Ebobisse (No. 4) and Lalas Abubakar (No. 5), had PDL experience.
The first round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft ended with a total of 13 PDL alums, including Niko Hansen (No. 9), Joe Holland (No. 10), Daniel Johnson (No. 11), Colton Storm (No. 14), Zeiko Lewis (No. 17), Jacori Hayes (No. 18), Nick DePuy (No. 19), Brian Wright (No. 20) and Brian Nana-Sinkam (No. 22), being chosen.
As Johnson and many other alumni pointed out, playing in the PDL had many benefits, including opportunities to train with and compete against professional teams. For them, and a majority of the selections at the MLS SuperDraft, staying active during the summer was exactly what they wanted and needed to help them prepare for a strong college season and beyond.
“I’ve been playing for [Ventura County Fusion Head Coach] Rudy Ybarra for the longest time, so when he asked me to come play for him, I had to do it because I really enjoy playing for him,” Danladi, taken by Minnesota United FC, said at the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday, “and I played with a really good group of guys – different players with different talents. I was able to learn, and others were able to learn from me as well.”
“The PDL gave me the platform to continue my playing at a time when a lot of people take a break,” U.S. Under-20 National Team member Ebobisse, selected by the Portland Timbers, said at the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, “and we had such a good blend of a lot of college players looking to keep playing at a high level, so having these games week in, week out against top-quality opponents, some of them are here now or already in MLS, I think that was really beneficial for me.”
“The PDL was incredible more than anything. I still actually FaceTime weekly with a lot of my PDL teammates,” Johnson, selected by the Chicago Fire, said at the MLS SuperDraft. “What it does is: You come together over the summer with guys who you’ve played against or know of from different schools, and you get to learn who they are off the field and become fast friends. You become close extremely quickly because you’re living together, traveling together, you’re playing at an extremely high level together. … In the PDL, the level is high because every kid coming in is a Division I or a top Division II, Division III player, and it’s results-based. There’s a championship to be won, so you have to gel quick.”
“The PDL was awesome,” Storm, selected by Sporting Kansas City, said at the LA Convention Center on Friday. “It kept my touches sharp in the summer, and it gave me confidence when I went back to UNC. Half the guys I played against or with were in the top 10 [of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft], and Reading United AC and Portland [Timbers U-23s] both showed a lot of love. Just getting touches on the ball every day instead of not doing anything for three months is a massive thing for anyone to gain. At Reading, they would pull me up a lot with the Philadelphia Union, and that was cool – to get to train with the first team. With the U.S. Open Cup, playing against professional teams, we got that exposure every year, and I was lucky enough to play in several Open Cup matches, so it was good exposure every day. I think you can’t go without PDL to go to the pros. If you want to make it your job, you can’t take three months off.”
“You work hard with your college team all spring, so you have two, three months where you’re not with your college, and you need to stay sharp and be ready for preseason that August,” Hayes said at the MLS SuperDraft. “The PDL helps you out with your fitness; it’s what you need to do over the summer.”
“In the college game, there’s a lot of off time, and having a league where you can develop your game and play games before the season to prepare yourself is a huge advantage for players,” DePuy, selected by the Montreal Impact, said at the MLS SuperDraft. “That’s why I think the PDL is a great league.”
“This past summer playing with the Burlingame Dragons, I played with some real quality players,” Wright said at the MLS SuperDraft. “The training sessions were always a high intensity, so that was good. Going out to the West Coast helped my game a little bit because they play a different style than the East Coast and what I was used to, so I think what I learned out there briefly kind of translated to my senior year to help me develop my game even more. As a player, I’m always looking to develop, so playing in the PDL, playing some quality games every week helped me ahead of my senior season. I would definitely recommend players to play PDL. It’s a good experience, even if you are not getting the minutes you want. Just the training in the summer with some good, quality players can really help you prepare for your next season.”