Entering its fifth season, Lansing United will compete in a new home in 2018, joining the Premier Development League’s Great Lakes Division.
Along with its eight fellow new member clubs, Lansing United joins the PDL seeking to expand its legacy of success and provide new, exciting opportunities for its players as they continue to build towards their professional aspirations. President and CEO of Lansing United, Jeremy Sampson, and head coach Nate Miller each lauded the move as a step forward for the club that will enable it to attract top quality collegiate players to Lansing, Michigan.
Now, entering 2018, the club is entering full-on preparation mode ahead of its inaugural PDL season. After a successful first appearance at the PDL Winter Summit in December, Lansing United is turning its attention to signing players, securing sponsors and is gearing up for its debut in May. Despite the busy time, Sampson found time to discuss the team’s move to the PDL, its new rivalry with the Michigan Bucks and more.
A part of the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the Division II USL, the newly-announced USL Division III and Super Y League, the PDL has served as the proven stepping-stone for aspiring professionals.
Nearly 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections since 2010 have PDL experience, including a total of 59 alums chosen in 2017. Among the many players to have played in the PDL before making their professional debuts include Newcastle United FC defender DeAndre Yedlin, 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia, 2017 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara and U.S. Men’s National Team members such as Darlington Nagbe, Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream.
PDL: What factors led you to seek PDL membership in 2018?
Jeremy Sampson: The PDL is where the best amateur players play each summer and we wanted to give our players who come to Lansing every year the ability to be seen and help them pursue their dreams of playing professionally. We are also very interested in the USL Division III league. Moving to the PDL allows us to learn the USL organization and allows us to continue those discussions with the USL in regards to Division III.
PDL: How was your first experience at the PDL Winter Summit?
JS: The Winter Summit was great. The Great Lakes Division had shared some emails prior to the event, but it was great to get to meet everyone in person. We are looking forward to competing with the rest of the division to see if we can make the playoffs.
PDL: How are you approaching early 2018 in terms of preparation for the upcoming season?
JS: With this being our fifth season, we will continue the marketing strategies that have worked for us the last four years in order to grow our attendance. As the calendar turns to January, we turn our focus to signing players, hiring interns and securing sponsors for the 2018 season.
PDL: What are you most looking forward to in your inaugural PDL season?
JS: Seeing the roster that our Head Coach Nate Miller is assembling. Being in the PDL has allowed us to retain some of our top players from 2017 as well as talk to some of the best players from not just the Midwest but from around the country about what we are doing in Lansing.
PDL: You have an immediate local rival in the Michigan Bucks; how does that close proximity help your club?
JS: We are very excited about our rivalry with the Michigan Bucks. Dan Duggan’s club is one of if not the top amateur club in America year in and year out. We are looking forward to the challenge of facing them on the field. I hope that they are as excited about the rivalry as we are. In the past few years, they have not had a team from Michigan who could be a local travel partner and a rival. Now that we are in the PDL, we are hopeful that we can create something special on the field. I would like to thank Dan Duggan for all of his help over the past couple of months. He has been a tremendous resource for me. At the Winter Summit, he was especially helpful in showing me the ropes and being incredibly helpful anytime that I had a question.
PDL: What are some goals you’d like to achieve as a club in 2018?
JS: Our on-field goal each season is to make the playoffs. Although we have been close, several times we have qualified for the postseason just one time in four seasons. Off the field, we want to continue to connect with the Mid-Michigan community. They have supported us so well, we want to continue to support youth soccer in our area and make sure that our team can be role models for the next generation of terrific players to come from this area.