Statesboro Awarded PDL Soccer Franchise
South Georgia to Join the Ranks of American Soccer
(August 6, 2015) Statesboro is now officially a “minor-league” city, as the Premier Development League (PDL) has announced it will expand to Georgia for the 2016 season. The PDL is operated by the USL, the strongest U.S. men’s professional soccer league below Major League Soccer (MLS).
“The addition of Statesboro is another important step for the PDL as its profile continues to grow throughout the southeast,” PDL Director Todd Eason said. “With established clubs in the Carolinas, Florida, West Virginia, and Ohio, a club based in Statesboro, Georgia allows for further regionalization of a conference that already features some of the most competitive teams in the PDL.”
The only PDL franchise in Georgia will begin play in May with the start of the 2016 PDL season. The club will play its inaugural season on the campus of Georgia Southern University. The PDL season features a 14-game schedule with seven home games.
The new franchise is co-owned by Darin Van Tassell, owner of The Clubhouse and long-time administrator of several international sport organizations, and Jeremy Aven, Director of Coaching and Player Development for Storm Soccer Academy.
“Soccer is coming to play a vital role in the Statesboro and Savannah market, and this part of the state represents one of the fastest growing sources of soccer talent in the nation. For us, that’s a perfect combination. To be able to offer a minor-league sports experience in the summer for our community says so much about how our area has arrived. We’re excited for the opportunity and look forward to being a part of the PDL,” said Van Tassell. “The USL represents one of the top sports organization in North America, and the PDL is a league with a proven record of developing homegrown talent. Ultimately, we’d love to establish ourselves as a premier PDL franchise, ascend the USL ranks, and build a soccer facility locally that we can call our own.”
“I am unbelievably excited about the opportunity to be a part of the PDL,” Aven commented. “Savannah and Statesboro have experienced lots of growth on the youth side in the last five years, and I believe that such momentums will help to drive more growth not only in numbers but in the soccer culture here. I am proud to become a part of such a great organization and looking forward to all the excitement to come.”
The presence of elite soccer in the region has thus far been limited to the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I soccer teams at Georgia Southern University and the women’s NCAA program Armstrong Atlantic University in Savannah. GSU hosted the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament last year, and Georgia Soccer used Statesboro as its host site for the 2015 State Cup Final Four Championship in May 2015. The recent Final Four highlights the youth development efforts in the area that have been underway for several decades. The driving force of a PDL franchise in Statesboro was tremendously helped by the presence of local soccer clubs, particularly the Storm Soccer Academy. Camps, clinics, academy, select, and recreational teams are already established, and Statesboro currently is a host site to the elite Region III Premier League (RPL) games and National Premier League (NPL) games for youth soccer.
The new PDL franchise will have Storm Soccer Academy as one of its affiliations. Storm Soccer Academy was created in 2010 to service players who want to excel in soccer at the highest level. Its creation has provided many players with the opportunity to train locally and compete at the highest level regionally as they develop and graduate through the program. Storm SA seeks players who wish to reach their potential and are committed to seeking excellence through it’s specific technical curriculum.
The team is conducting a “Name the Team” contest through its newly launched website at www.statesboropdl.com, with the team logo and uniforms to be unveiled following the contest’s completion. The fan who submits the winning name will receive four season tickets to the inaugural season.
Announcements regarding the coaching staff will be made in the coming weeks. Players interested in trying out for the club will get their opportunity in late January.
Since its inception, the PDL’s chief goal has been to help develop players to play in the professional ranks. Among its alumni are current U.S. National Team players such as Brad Guzan, who was the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 2004, and DeAndre Yedlin, who was an All-League selection in 2012. Other former PDL standouts, including Gyasi Zardes, Brad Evans, Tim Ream and Graham Zusi, were members of the United States’ squad for the 2015 Gold Cup, while up-and-coming players such as Matt Hedges, Sean Johnson, Darlington Nagbe and Andrew Farrell also previously starred in the league.
The league has also been the home for standout performers across Major League Soccer, including 2015 MLS All-Stars Dax McCarty of the New York Red Bulls, Kei Kamara of Columbus Crew SC and Tony Beltran of Real Salt Lake. The past four MLS Rookie of the Year selections have also been PDL alumni, the most recent being former Real Colorado Foxes forward Tesho Akindele of FC Dallas.
The league has consistently been a proving ground for top young North American players, with 70 percent of those selected in the MLS SuperDraft during the past six seasons having had PDL experience as they moved toward their professional careers.