With 2017 rapidly entering the rear-view mirror, we take a look back at the most memorable stories of another fantastic year for the Premier Development League.
From the Charlotte Eagles first title, to announcing our new Co-Directors, here are the ten best stories from the past year.
After two seasons as South Atlantic Division champions ended in Eastern Conference semifinal exits, the Charlotte Eagles finished one spot lower in their division in 2017, but ended the year with the ultimate prize. After an incredible playoff run, the Eagles fell behind to the Thunder Bay Chill in the PDL Championship early, but battled back behind a stunning goal from Joao Costa and another from Ryan Williams to come from behind and capture their first league title.
While a huge number of PDL players put together highly productive seasons this past summer, none did more to help their club than New York Red Bulls U23 forward Brian White. The Duke Blue Devil produced with volume for the Red Bulls U23, scoring 17 goals in the team’s 14 matches this year, leading to a PDL Regular Season Championship and recognition for White as the league’s Golden Boot winner and MVP.
Aside from leveling for the Eagles in the PDL Championship, Joao Costa’s stunning scissor-kick goal was impressive enough to earn him the No. 1 slot on SportsCenter’s Daily Top 10 and the No. 7 slot on the Weekly Top 10. Even better, that goal would ultimately help the Eagles capture their first PDL Championship.
While PDL Alums always show strong at the MLS SuperDraft, with 70% of all picks since 2010 boasting PDL experience, 2017 was particularly impressive, with a total of 59 alums selected. Included among the selections were four of the top five, including Ventura County Fusion’s Abu Danladi, FC Boston’s Miles Robinson, D.C. United U23’s Jeremy Ebobisse and the Michigan Bucks’ Lalas Abubakar.
In a perfect exemplification of the highest level of achievement on the #Path2Pro, an incredible 30 PDL alums earned U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups in 2017. From veteran goalkeeper Brad Guzan, to young, upcoming forward Josh Sargent, to Fulham defender Tim Ream, PDL alums from across the world and all ages continued to perform at the highest level by suiting up for their country this year.
The PDL honored its member clubs at the 2017 Winter Summit in Tampa, Florida, handing out league awards to a number of teams that impressed this year. Leading the way was New York Red Bulls U23, taking home the PDL Regular Season Championship. Joining them were the Fresno Fuego as Franchise of the Year, Myrtle Beach Mutiny as New Franchise of the Year and Rusty Bryant of Mississippi Brilla FC as Executive of the Year.
As former PDL Director Todd Eason accepted a move to take over as Director of Development at the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy, the league announced two new Co-Directors in Chris Madden, serving as Director of Competition & Development, and Mike Panter, serving as Director of Operations & Compliance. The new leading men were hailed by USL CEO Alec Papadakis as offering “a new direction to the league as it continues to climb to new heights.”
While continuing to make the PDL available to all viewers via YouTube, the league made its national debut by appearing on ESPN Networks for the first time in 2017, with the PDL Championship being hosted on ESPN3. The move marked a major step for the PDL, exposing its showcase match to a broad U.S. audience and providing a thrilling conclusion to the 2017 season as the Charlotte Eagles defeated the Thunder Bay Chill.
While multiple new clubs had successful debut PDL seasons in 2017, the Myrtle Beach Mutiny impressed the most, winning the South Atlantic Division with a 10-1-3 record to mark their entry into the league. Aside from their on-field performance, the Mutiny provided a strong development platform for its players, resulting in Tobenna Uzo signing his first professional deal with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC following the PDL season. The team subsequently took home the award for New Franchise of the Year at the 2017 PDL Winter Summit.
The PDL prides itself on developing future professionals, and with multiple member clubs holding pro partnerships, the path forward for players has never been clearer. Several new clubs added to the leagues portfolio of professional partnerships, most notably FC Tucson in conjunction with the USL’s Phoenix Rising FC and the Fresno Fuego with the USL’s upcoming Fresno FC.