Michigan Bucks players head to pros as PDL leads the way

Dzenan Catic

The Michigan Bucks watched in pride as three of their current and past players were selected in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.

Dzenan Catic, the standout Davenport University NAIA and PDL Player of the Year in which he helped both his Davenport and Bucks teams win National Championships this year in their leagues, was selected 31st overall (10th in the 2nd round) in the draft to the Philadelphia Union. Catic has been very successful in his career so far with first being named Mr. Soccer in Michigan while playing in Grand Rapids and then his recent accomplishments this fall with his teams, the new MLS head coach Jim Curtin stated it precisely at the time of the pick "he has a nose for the goal."

Michigan Bucks Captain, Zach Steinberger, a Butler University graduate, was selected 8th overall in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft to the Houston Dynamo. Dynamo Head Coach Coyle stated about Steinberger that he is "controlled and always playing the ball, best player available and has a real desire to do well in the game."

Former Buck Adam Montague, a graduate and 2nd year Captain from Michigan State University, was selected 16th in the 3rd round and 58th overall to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The initial draft predictions had Adam in the 4th round after the initial day one drafts were completed, but Vancouver did not want to pass up that opportunity when they saw him in round 3. Montague is a valued pick to the Whitecaps and Head Coach Carl Robinson.

Michigan Bucks, the National Champions of the 2014 PDL season, is a great example as to how the PDL is a stepping stone (#Path2Pro) to the professional league for college players. In the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, 7 of the top 10 draft picks are former PDL players and a total of 58 PDL alums were selected altogether. Another PDL fact this year worth noting, is that there were 7 PDL alumni on the USMNT roster for friendlies vs Chile and Panama.

The success of the PDL and the path it creates to the next level is behind the reason for the New York Red Bulls NPSL team to make the move to PDL. As discussed, just this week in the "Once a Metro" story, it discusses why the New York Red Bulls team is moving to PDL even though they also have a USL PRO team.

The author, Townsend explains, "NPSL has a reputation of being less than professional from time to time, and the PDL is considered to have a higher level of play than NPSL. In addition, MLS has aligned itself with the United Soccer Leagues in order to improve player development through USL Pro. There are rumors that the league has been asking MLS teams with U-23 affiliates in NPSL to move them to the PDL. NASL and NPSL have been collaborating in a similar fashion."

The PDL players, like Catic, Steinberger and Montague, as college seniors are always striving for that professional level, through their play in school, the PDL and at the MLS combine, and the professional level sometimes begins in the USL PRO.

In a recent interview with David Wagner, Vice President, Competition and Operations at United Soccer Leagues, he explains the relationship in the professionals as "USL Pro's relationship with MLS has been fantastic over the past few seasons and attending the MLS Combine is one of the great benefits. Between the MLS clubs either owning a franchise in USL PRO or affiliating with a USL PRO side, we will likely see many of the players selected at the MLS SuperDraft on loan in USL PRO this season."

A benefit that the USL PRO has at the MLS Combines is that "In addition to being able to watch some of the best young talent the USL PRO teams gathered for the league's first Technical Committee Meeting. The USL PRO Technical Committee is made up of coaches and general managers from around the league. We are able to discuss many important competition, technical, and player development issues in the meeting."

At the MLS combine, college seniors are invited, as well as some PDL players, which is a great resource for the USL PRO, NASL and MLS leagues to inspect the talent firsthand to help make their drafting decisions. Some players that are drafted and selected in the MLS, may actually end up playing in the USL PRO affiliate for that team if it is determined there is not an immediate place for them on the MLS roster but want them to stay within that team affiliation.

As a league in which the USL PRO and MLS find interest in, the success in the PDL as a player to potentially move on is favorable. Due to this building block within the US Soccer system, this 2015 season, there are now 9 new teams that will be added: the New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC (Toronto Lynx will be in a League 1 Ontario), Burlingame Dragons FC, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, Miami City Champions, Foothills FC, Lehigh Valley United Sonic and the Palm Beach Suns FC. Also, a few teams have name changes this year, which include the Derby City Rovers (formerly River City Rovers), Golden State Misioneros FC (LA Misioneros FC) and the Springfield Synergy (Springfield Demize).

The PDL has changed the alignment and structure to the league slightly due to the increase in teams and geographic locations. There are 65 clubs that will be broken into 4 conferences and 10 divisions. www.uslpdl.com/teamdirectory/pdl/index_E.html PDL Clubs will play 14 regular season games and 23 of those teams will advance to the playoffs along with the Conference Championships scheduled for the weekend of 7/24-7/26/2015.

Dan Duggan's Michigan Bucks are in the Central Conference Great Lakes Division along with Dayton Dutch Lions, Derby City Rovers, Forest City London, K-W United FC, Michigan Bucks, Pittsburgh Riverhounds U23, and Toronto.

The newly selected MLS draftees will now be a part of the long history of Michigan Bucks that have moved on to the professionals, whether that be in the USLPRO or the MLS. In the upcoming 20th PDL season for the Bucks, over 100 prior players have signed contracts to play professionally including current professionals Steve Clark with Columbus Crew SC and Kofi Opare with DC United and Mitch Hildebrandt with NASL Minnesota United FC. As mentioned by the Bucks, "This year's selections keep the Bucks streak alive of having at least one player selected in 17 consecutive MLS Drafts, dating back to 1999 when Jeremy Aldrich (Mattawan, MI/Butler University) was the first Bucks player selected with the 19th pick in the second round by the Miami Fusion."

The Michigan Bucks are proud to represent the PDL with their draftees, the reigning North American Champions, as well as holding top records within the PDL, as outlined on their website www.buckssoccer.com "most PDL records for winning, including most wins in league history, most playoff appearances, most playoff wins, most US Open Cup appearances, most US Open Cup wins and most US Open Cup wins over professional teams, including two wins and a tie against teams from MLS."

This year's 2015 PDL schedule will be out later this week for the Michigan Bucks. Which players will move on to the next level after this season?

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