TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies, who joined the Division II United Soccer League in October, have been awarded a Premier Development League franchise for the 2017 season. The Tampa Bay Rowdies U23 will compete in the Southeast Division.
“The PDL is always excited and supportive of highly-operated teams from the USL, given the resources they provide to aspiring professionals,” PDL Director Todd Eason said. “There is a hotbed of talent in this region, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies U23 will provide an exceptional environment for the development of many college-aged players. I have no doubt the Rowdies U23 will adopt the ‘Path to Pro’ model and field a talented side to compete in a tough Southern Conference.”
The Rowdies U23 become the 14th PDL franchise to be owned and operated by a USL or Major League Soccer club, or hold a partnership with a USL or MLS club.
"The Rowdies U23 will give us an opportunity to develop young talent in the Tampa Bay area, while also developing a strong connection with the community,” Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards said. “There are many talented youth players in the region and the Rowdies U23 will hopefully guide them towards becoming professional soccer players in the years to come. We want the sport to continue to grow in Tampa Bay and the Rowdies U23 will do just that."
Set to play their home matches at the Waters Soccer Complex in Tampa, Florida, the Rowdies U23 will enter the PDL alongside the SIMA Águilas, Weston FC, Lakeland Tropics, Myrtle Beach Mutiny, Nashville SC U23, Tobacco Road FC, Wilmington Hammerheads FC and SoCal Surf as expansion franchises for the 23rd PDL season.
The PDL, a part of the United Soccer Leagues – which also operates the USL and Super Y League – has served as a major development platform for aspiring professional players for more than two decades. Since 2010, nearly 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections have had PDL experience, with 59 PDL alums chosen in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
More than 200 PDL alumni competed in the 2016 MLS season, including budding MLS stars in Keegan Rosenberry and Brandon Vincent, while more than 350 USL players from the 2016 regular season had PDL experience. U.S. Men’s National Team members DeAndre Yedlin, Sacha Kljestan, Brad Guzan, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes and Geoff Cameron are among the PDL’s alumni, as well as USL talents in Brandon Allen, Mitch Hildebrandt and Sean Okoli.