Already the home to winning programs at the prep and collegiate levels, Statesboro is about to take a step up in the sporting world.
On Thursday afternoon, at a press conference held at the Statesboro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, official plans were announced for a Statesboro-based soccer team which will compete in the Premier Development League (PDL) beginning next spring.
The team will be owned by Clubhouse owner and Georgia Southern University professor Darin Van Tassell, along with Jeremy Aven, a director with Storm Soccer Academy based out of Savannah.
“This is a game changer for our community,” Statesboro mayor Jan Moore said. “It’s exciting to see vision and action taking place.”
Statesboro’s team will be one of 64 PDL franchises competing in the 2016 season – which ranges from May until August – and will be the first Georgia-based PDL franchise.
“This team doesn’t belong to the PDL. It belongs to Statesboro,” United Soccer Leagues Vice President for Business Development Steven Short said. “After spending some time here and seeing the facilities, it’s clear that Statesboro’s team is in tremendous hands.”
The PDL operates as the third tier of the United Soccer Leagues, which span the United States and Canada and feature Major League Soccer at the top level. PDL teams are common stepping stones for future stars as the majority of MLS draft picks and United States national team members have played for PDL teams earlier in their careers. In the most recent MLS draft, 70 selections came from the ranks of the PDL.
Teams competing in the PDL routinely feature some of the nation’s elite youth players, along with top collegiate players and some international talent. Already home to one of just three Division I men’s college programs in Georgia, Statesboro makes for a fitting location for another PDL foothold.
“In a nutshell, I feel like Statesboro has arrived,” VanTassell said. “We’re now a minor league town. I think we’ll be a great ambassador to the PDL and that we’ll continue to generate excitement about the game of soccer throughout the region.”
In addition to the influx of talent at the U23 level, the creation of Statesboro’s PDL franchise aims to have a grassroots building affect at younger levels.
The Storm Soccer Academy has staff in four locations in the coastal area, including Statesboro and Savannah. Storm Soccer will have ties to the PDL team.
“We hope that a connection to the PDL squad will draw attention to the program,” Storm director Brad Nein said. “There will also be training opportunities with the team for our older age groups. It’s going to be great to offer that pathway to more playing options following their time at Storm.”
Statesboro will play a large part in the new team’s identity from the start as the squad’s name will be left up to suggestions from the community. Fans can visit the newly-launched statesboropdl.com to vote on what the new franchise should be named.
A final team name will be decided by September, with an official logo and crest set to be unveiled in October and uniforms coming off the line in November.
November is also the scheduled timeframe for the team to name a head coach. A season schedule will be released in January and open tryouts for the team will be held at the end of the month.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.