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Super-20 Offers Opportunities For PDL

Super-20 Offers Opportunities For PDL

New Heat team to take part in Super-20 Division

USL Feature

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By NICHOLAS MURRAY

The USL Super-20 League has long been a place where young players can develop while bridging the gap from youth to college soccer, sometimes even playing within a Major League Soccer organization. The three USL PDL teams that became inaugural members of the league’s new Mid-South Division are also hoping it can provide their teams with a pipeline to further success.

That’s certainly the view taken by J.J. Vela, the general manager of the Laredo Heat. One of the most successful clubs in the PDL in recent seasons, having gone to the playoffs six consecutive times, reached the championship weekend four times and won the championship in 2007, Vela believes the addition of the Super-20 League team to the Heat’s system will provide a bridge for their younger players that will allow them to make an immediate impact when they step up to the PDL level.

“Since our inception, the PDL has proven to be a very competitive league and in order to be successful, we needed to get older players (U23s) on board in order to participate on an even playing field,” Vela said. “While we have been successful in the PDL, we noticed that our 17-, 18- and 19-year-old players were not getting the adequate playing time in order for them to develop properly and be ready for the PDL action on the pitch when their time came to perform and this was primarily due to lack of playing time.

“The benefit that the Super-20 will give our 17-, 18- and 19-year-old players is the ability to play at a higher level than high school and club soccer and with their age group.”

The Heat have been joined by fellow PDL teams the Austin Aztex and RGV Grandes in the new division, with the Texas Dutch Lions, based in Houston, and Texas Football Club, based in Dallas, making up the current five-team group. Additional teams are expected to be announced as inaugural members of the division, which will begin play in 2012.

For the Aztex, who make their return to the PDL this season under owner Dave Markley, allowing a path for player development through the club’s system will not only help his team succeed on the field, but also provide players with an opportunity to follow former Aztex PDL alumni such as Miguel Gallardo into the professional ranks.

“A primary purpose for the Austin Aztex is to further develop elite local players and create opportunities for them to pursue professional careers,” Markley said. “The addition of the Super-20 team allows us to complete the bridge between the excellent youth clubs in the area, our PDL team, and professional teams in the United States and abroad.”

Certainly, if the level of competition in the PDL’s Mid-South Division is any indicator the players in the new Super-20 division will face challenging contests throughout the season. And, Vela believes, the opportunity to challenges themselves against the top U20 players in the state will be a great incentive for the division’s players as they continue to make their way through the ranks of potential professionals.

“We are looking forward to it primarily due to getting playing time for our younger players in a very competitive setting, playing time that the top players from this region have not been able to get until now,” Vela said. “The majority of our younger players have played against players from the Rio Grande Valley and Austin; however, they have not played much with teams from Dallas and Houston, so that in itself will be exciting for the players.”