BEVERLY, Mass. – Sophomore forward Alex Elia (Somers, Conn.) has made Endicott men’s soccer history by being selected to play for the Western Mass Pioneers of the United Soccer League’s (USL) Premier Development League (PDL).
Elia is the first Gull to be chosen by the PDL, North America’s top developmental men’s league, which features 73 teams within four conferences across the United States and Canada. The experience will give the young forward an opportunity to play matches at a high level of competition, compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and also get attention from scouts while keeping fit and maintaining his NCAA eligibility.
Elia led the Gulls in scoring in his freshman year, tallying four goals and eight points, including two game-winning goals in eighteen games. This year he notched two more goals and added two assists, helping Endicott to a top-four seed in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) tournament and a berth in the ECAC New England Championship.
“Alex is the first player in our program's history to compete at the PDL level,” said men’s soccer Head Coach Joe Calabrese. “Alex’s quality first touch and ability to play out of tight areas or spaces will allow him to find success at the PDL level. The PDL will undoubtedly support his growth and development as a player.”
The PDL is one of the most successful arms of the USL, and has recently helped produce some of the top picks in the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft, including \#4 overall pick Teal Bunbury, who has already been called up to the USA Men’s National Team. In fact, 37 of the 54 players (68%) selected in this year’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft had spent time in the PDL.
“Our PDL has 65 teams across the country and 8 of the first 10 draft picks in today’s MLS SuperDraft played in the PDL,” said USL President Tim Holt in a Fox Soccer Channel interview on Thursday evening after the draft. “Over seventy percent of MLS draft picks have had some PDL experience over the last five years.”
While playing PDL is no guarantee of MLS contracts, it is a great way for college players to play at a high level during the summer months. Over 1,600 players participated in PDL in during the 2010 summer season.
The Pioneers were founded in 1997 and started playing in 1998. In 1999, the second year of the franchise, they won the USL D-3 Pro League championship. In 2005 they reigned as the regular season champions, were USL Second Division finalists, and hosted the National Championship match. In 2010 they joined the PDL, to focus on developing future professional soccer players.