Twelve PDL Teams Bite The Dust
If you’ve ever thought the Premier Development League business model sounds great – no player salaries or workman’s comp, limited regional travel, short seasons – keep in mind it’s no guarantee of success. A dozen PDL teams – some of them clubs of long standing – are no more, according to the 2013 schedule announced today by United Soccer Leagues.
The biggest loss – at least from an historical perspective – is the Nashville Metros, who had been around in one form or another since 1990. Begun as an indoor team, the Metros moved outdoors, went professional, played at the second division level (briefly as the Tennessee Rhythm) before dropping back to the PDL in 2002. They’d been operating at a subsistence level – drawing 131 fans per game last year – before apparently giving up the ghost this off-season.
Orange County Blue Star, which began as the pro Orange County Zodiac in 1997, is also a casualty after 16 years, while the Brooklyn Knights are out after 15 seasons. The Fraser Valley Mariners (formerly the Abbotsford Rangers and Mariners) and New Orleans Jesters (nee Shell Shockers) both survived ten years but are no more. The Cincinnati Kings, who began as a third-division pro club in 2005 but had played the last five years at the PDL level, are also gone, as are the Ogden Outlaws, who had been around since 2006.
Shorter lifespans included the FC Jax (Jacksonville, Fla.) Destroyers, Fredericksburg Hotspur and Real Maryland Monarchs (which all played two seasons) and the one-and-one Boston Victory and Worcester Hydra.
Four new teams have joined the PDL for 2013, including the awkwardly-named New York Magic – F.A. Euro (that’s one club), Oklahoma City (no nickname yet, hopefully it’s not “City”), Real Boston Rams and Southwest Florida Adrenaline. So the PDL is net minus eight clubs from last year.
There have been several PDL success stories, as the Des Moines Menace, Michigan Bucks, Kansas City Brass, Orlando City U23s, Vermont Voltage and Westchester Flames have all been around for 15 years or more. But of the 210 PDL clubs in the modern era (since 1996), 147 are no longer with us and 94 (45%) have lasted three years or fewer. It’s not easy to do this, even with small budgets.
So it appears we’ll have 106 men’s outdoor clubs in 2013, down five from 2012, but still the second highest total of the century. With at least a couple of NASL and USL Pro teams joining the fray in 2014, and expansion still a near-term possibility in MLS, we could soon get close to the modern era record of 112 clubs set back in 1998.