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USL PDL in the Spotlight: A Vital Part of American Soccer


Many American football fans, especially those who only focus on MLS don’t know much about the PDL. The USL run Premier Development League however is having quite a summer. First, current PDL star Anton Peterlin signed with Everton of the English Premier League.

Next, PDL product Charlie Davies burst onto the world scene with an amazing Confederations Cup run which almost single handily turned the USA from the tournaments most impotent attacking force to having one hand on the trophy in the final.

Now, Cody Arnoux joins Peterlin at Everton, and former Wake Forest and Carolina Dynamo team mate Marcus Tracy in Europe. As someone who follows the USL umbrella as closely as I possibly can, I’ve been approached by readers and listeners over the past few weeks asking, what exactly is the PDL and how do they do it?

Let’s leave it to the source of information, 21st century style that everyone seems to rely on to explain the PDL: No I am not talking about the USL’s official website, but am of course referring to Wikipedia.

Francisco Marcos and Tim Holt as well as the rest of the USL brass deserve credit for the great progress of this league. While people tend to focus on the USL’s first division when referring to the league, the PDL has proven to be the most useful club setup in American soccer outside of MLS. Perhaps, in many ways it is more useful than MLS.

While USL-1 and USL-2 are perfectly acceptable leagues for entertainment purposes, USL’s real impact on the US National Team and European football is being felt thanks to the PDL. Moreover, the PDL has given many a player who doesn’t want to sign in MLS for an insultingly low wage, the opportunity to go to college while honing their skills over the summer in a professional environment (not I did not say the PDL is fully professional but that the setup around the better PDL clubs resembles lower league football in Europe, as does some of the training) and then take their chances going abroad.

While I enjoy USL-1 immensely, I am pleased that PDL is returning to South Florida next year with a team in Fort Lauderdale. For years, I have tracked players or turned up among small crowds for other PDL games in the state of Florida. It is at these games, I first saw both Michael Parkhurst and Heath Pearce, many years ago when they played for the Bradenton PDL team.

The PDL is a vital part of the American footy setup Whatever happens in the future within the USL’s professional divisions, the PDL will continue to be a critical cog for US Soccer: perhaps USL’s greatest contribution to American and World Football.

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  1. Joe in Indianapolis

    July 24, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Makes me wish there was a PDL team in Indianapolis.

  2. soccer goals

    July 24, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Very informative post.

  3. Lars

    July 24, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Let’s talk about the resounding success story called the Ottawa Fury. A Canadian Soccer miracle and this should be discussed here.

  4. Nate

    July 24, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    The PDL is a godsend for many kids who are missed by the scouts and also US Soccer’s development institution. I’ve noticed quite strangely that US Soccer omits PDL teams from the biographies of a lot of players on the website and in press materials. Why is this? Does it make MLS look bad?

  5. Silverbacks Fan

    July 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Thank You Kartik!

    So many writers and bloggers ignore USL totally and the USL angle to players careers and developments.

    Now if we can get USL’s management at the toip straightened out, we can get the Silverbacks back playing in USL-1 and the PDL.

  6. Larry O

    July 24, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Good piece. You should keep an eye on the PDL playoffs this weekend. Another advantage of the PDL is the season ends just in time for the Euro season to start.

    Ives, McCarthy and others wouldn’t know that because even though they have teams in their backyards they don’t have the inclination to cover it and then ask “where did this guy come from.”

  7. Fire Bob Bradley

    July 24, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Good piece, kartik. This has needed to be said for a long time., Expect to see yourself on a “no talk list” from Gulati and Garber.

    Truthfully, anyone who has spent time around European clubs like I have and then compares MLS and College Soccer to set up there laughs. The PDL is a mixed bag- but the good PDL clubs like Ventura County and like Carolina Dynamo give a more professional experience comparable to European football for youngsters than anything they get here. Some PDL is crap and I’ll freely admit that, but I’d prefer guys follow the PDL to Europe ala Tracy, Peterlin route than get bogged down in MLS and become tools in the process of allocation, trades, and improper training that is a trademark of that NFL-ized soccer league.

  8. adam

    July 24, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Also, Kartik don’t forget Jay DeMerit- PDL to Premier League, without a stop in MLS!

  9. adam

    July 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    kartik, i don’t know why you even get in the mud with fan, who is clearly a tool of all things MLS. Any critical word about the league isn’t acceptable to fan.

    Why do you even question why Goff, Ives, etc don’t cover the PDL angle to these signings? Because it makes MLS lok bad. Goff is better, but Ives is basically a propagandist of MLS. He doesn’t even acknowledge USL exists and I won’t go near his site. The other tool is Nick Green. How many PDL and USL clubs are their in the LA area? Yet his LA Soccer blog is just the two MLS teams and the Sol. I wonder if he even knew who Peterlin was when he went to Everton.

  10. pate

    July 24, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    The PDL isn’t just impacting foreign leagues. Look at how many players in recent MLS drafts played in the PDL …

  11. kyle

    July 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Soccer writers in America do not like to mention the PDL because it looks bad for MLS. Players who dont play in the “Mighty” MLS can still make it in Europe.

  12. Adam Edg

    July 24, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    PDL is awesome. It is the only league soccer we have in Iowa. The Des Moines Menace draw more fans than some USL-1 and many USL-2 teams. We average around 4,000 per game. The games are highly competitive and with 68 teams in the US & Canada, the league gets passionate supporters than some pro levels in the US. Raodtripping to regional opponents happens more frequently in PDL than anywhere else in American soccer.
    I don’t know about other teams in the PDL, but DM not only scouts NCAA D1 programs (Drake is a consistently huge target of course), but they draw players from NAIA (Grand View University is huge b/c it is in DM), NCAA D2 & D3, and are high schools when possible. This gives guys who MLS/USL-1 (let alone European teams) would not have looked at otherwise a chance at a career in soccer.

  13. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 24, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    The other point Fan, is in covering the above mentioned players otherwise outstanding reporters like Ives, Goiff, etc NEVER seem to mention the PDL angle. Purusing the coverage of Arnoux signing they all mention Wake and forget the Dynamo where he is actually playing now. Why is this? Why do the top soccer writers in the country constantly forget when guys who sign abroad played in the PDL, which provides them with top notch training and professional atmosphere that prepares them for the rigors of European football.

  14. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 24, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Fan- I NEVER refuse to publish comments. If I do then I’ll shut down this site. If your comment had the wrong key words and accidentally went to Spam I apologize.
    But the spam filter is automatic. PDL develops these players along with college soccer. I don’t know why you are so negative all the time. It’s fine to disagree but you make everything so personal- yet I will NEVER censor your comemnts.

  15. Fan

    July 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    The PDL is awesome, but to pretend they alone developed these guys is just another example of your revisionist point of view. So go ahead and refuse to publish my comment again, Kartik. Truth hurts.

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