BYU open 11th campaign in the PDL
While the beginning of May sees college soccer players scatter to teams in the USL Premier Development League to get valuable playing time in the summer months, early May is the time players and fans of Brigham Young University’s men’s soccer team look forward to every year.
That’s because BYU soccer competes in the PDL, the first and only university-sponsored club to do so.
The BYU Cougars open their 11th campaign in the PDL tonight when they travel to Pacific Palisades, California, to play OC Blues Strikers FC (known as Pali Blues in 2012). They play Fresno Fuego on Thursday and finish up their California trip with a game against Ventura County Fusion on Saturday.
BYU fields an interscholastic women’s team but took the unprecedented leap of purchasing a franchise in the PDL a decade ago after dominating in collegiate club soccer (winning the championship 7 out of 9 years from 1993-2001). The move, according to the team’s official history, was made out of a desire to seek “higher quality competition in order to create a challenging environment where players can develop.”
Where collegiate club soccer is off the radar of the amateur soccer scene in the U.S., the PDL is considered the fourth tier of soccer in the U.S. and features players from elite college soccer programs, recent college graduates and academy players looking to impress pro scouts. The Cougars finished sixth in the Southwest Division last year with a 6-2-8 mark and have compiled a 68-21-75 record since their inaugural season in 2003. Their best year was 2007 when they finished 13-2-1 and lost in the conference finals.
Players on the BYU team are all students at the private Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints university – the largest religious-affiliated university in the U.S. with an enrollment of 30,000-plus students. As part of their commitment to their religion, players’ time on the team is often interrupted by a two-year Mormon mission, a common occurrence for students at the university.
This year’s squad is led by a trio of players who were invited to the USL PRO combine back in January: junior goalkeeper Brian Hale, junior midfielder Colby Bauer and junior forward Garrett Losee.