TAMPA, Fla. - North Carolina Football Club has been awarded a franchise for the 2017 Premier Development League season, bolstering a South Atlantic Division that now houses seven teams based in the Carolinas. The team will compete as the North Carolina FC U23 and will play its home matches at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.
"The North Carolina FC U23 are a welcome addition to the Premier Development League," PDL Director Todd Eason said. "The PDL franchise will undoubtedly pull elite college-aged players, based both on the history of the club and its proximity to some of best collegiate programs in the United States. North Carolina Football Club has a strong partnership with the Capital Area Soccer League, and so adding a PDL franchise helps bridge the pathway from youth soccer to the professional level for the club."
North Carolina Football Club is the state's largest professional soccer organization and is the parent organization of North Carolina FC and North Carolina Courage. The organization is owned by local entrepreneur Steve Malik and managed by North Carolina native and longtime soccer executive Curt Johnson. North Carolina Football Club was established in 2016 to bring the highest levels of men's and women's professional soccer to the state.
Goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre, defender Steven Miller, forward Brian Shriver and midfielder Tiyi Shipalane - who scored the game-winning goal in the 2006 PDL Championship for the Michigan Bucks - are PDL alums currently under contract with North Carolina FC.
“North Carolina FC is looking forward to joining the Premier Development League,” said Curt Johnson, President and General Manager of North Carolina Football Club. “We're fortunate from a regional standpoint that a number of top college-aged players compete in our state year-round. By us joining the PDL and further connecting with this talent base, we will be helping some of the top players in the country develop into future professionals and achieve their highest goals. This will also allow us to identify new talent for North Carolina FC."
The North Carolina FC U23 join Texas United, FC Cleburne, Tampa Bay Rowdies U23, SIMA Águilas, Weston FC, Lakeland Tropics, Myrtle Beach Mutiny, Houston FC, FC Boulder, Nashville SC U23, Tobacco Road FC, Wilmington Hammerheads FC, SoCal Surf and a Brazos Valley-based club as expansion franchises set to begin play in 2017. Dewan Bader, who led the Cary-based development team to a 2009 PDL Eastern Conference Championship win, will lead the team as Head Coach.
For more information on North Carolina Football Club, please visit www.NorthCarolinaFC.com.
The PDL, a part of the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the Division II USL and Super Y League, has proven to be an important steppingstone for top professionals in North America and around the world. In 2016, 73 percent of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft selections had PDL experience, including four of the first five overall draft picks. Current U.S. Men’s National Team members Brad Guzan, Steve Birnbaum, DeAndre Yedlin, Jordan Morris and Darlington Nagbe are among the many alums to have played in the PDL.
More than 550 PDL alums were a part of the 2016 MLS and USL regular seasons, including 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year Jordan Morris, 2016 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Hedges, 2016 USL MVP Sean Okoli and 2016 USL Rookie of the Year Brandon Allen.