TAMPA, Fla. – Regarded as one of the elite developmental soccer programs in the United States, the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy (SIMA) in Montverde, Florida, has been awarded a Premier Development League franchise ahead of the 2017 season. The team will compete as the SIMA Águilas, and play its home matches at the Montverde Academy Center for Sportsmanship and Wellness.
“The PDL strives to be an elite developmental league in North America, and our mission completely aligns with Montverde Academy’s aim to help young athletes flourish into better players and people,” PDL Director Todd Eason said. “SIMA is well known for producing talented individuals, and the addition of a PDL franchise serves as a platform for its players to learn, grow and receive national exposure on their path to the pros.”
SIMA was founded in 2013, and is a soccer-specific developmental program in direct affiliation with Montverde Academy – an independent boarding school located in Orlando, Florida. The SIMA program has been responsible for more than 120 student-athletes obtaining college scholarships to universities throughout the United States since its inception and is also responsible for developing 13 graduates who have gone on to play in Major League Soccer and in Europe on first-team contracts at the age of 18.
“We are pleased to have this opportunity to advance soccer development to the next level with a PDL team,” Montverde Academy Headmaster Dr. Kasey Kesselring said. “With scores of SIMA alumni in the college ranks, the ability to provide a competitive venue and continue to expose them to high-level competition will only serve to advance their opportunities toward a potential professional opportunity. We are very pleased to join the PDL family.”
The Águilas will be led by Head Coach and Director of the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy Mike Potempa, who holds a U.S. Soccer Federation “A” license. Potempa played for Clemson University before being selected by the LA Galaxy in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft. After retiring, he coached at his alma mater for seven years before joining Montverde Academy in 2010.
“The Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy is firmly committed to soccer-specific development across all age groups and ability levels in the United States,” Potempa said. “It is our goal through the PDL to provide a professional environment for young players to train properly during the summer months and prepare them for their upcoming college seasons and future professional careers. Our environment and training methods will help bridge the gap of development that cannot be satisfied with the current college structure. We believe in youth and will always sacrifice results for development.”
In the previous six years, Montverde Academy has had over 120 players receive scholarships to play collegiately, including 76 scholarship athletes in Division I of the NCAA. Among the alumni include Clemson’s top 2016 scorer in junior forward Diego Campos and the University of Portland’s leading goal-scorer in freshman Benji Michel, who featured this past summer for the PDL’s Portland Timbers U-23s. Oumar Diakhite, who currently plays for Portuguese club G.D. Estoril Praia, Matheus Silva, who signed a first team contract with the San Jose Earthquakes after graduation from Montverde Academy, and Amang Olivier, who competes for Molde FK in Norway, are also notable alums.
A part of the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the Division 2 USL and Super Y League, the PDL has helped high-caliber players rise to the professional level for more than two decades. U.S. Men’s National Team members Brad Guzan, DeAndre Yedlin, Sacha Kljestan and Jordan Morris – who was also named 2016 Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year – are among the PDL alumni currently competing at the professional level. In total, more than 550 PDL alums took part in the 2016 MLS and United Soccer League regular seasons.