Nearly 70 percent of players selected in the Major League Soccer Draft since 2010 have PDL experience. Nearly 300 former PDL players competed during the 2015 United Soccer League (USL) season.

The PDL is a vital stepping stone for players to advance their careers domestically or abroad and preparing them for success at the next level is a top priority for the league and its clubs, especially the Long Island Rough Riders.

“It’s not just about quality training sessions or quality games, but it’s the whole environment,” Rough Riders general manager Flavio Ferri said. “It’s things like having a conditioning coach, athletic trainer, a reserve team where players can play when they come back from injury, and a well of resources to bring in additional players. All of these partnerships we have are to help the platform itself to become a more professional one and help players develop so they can play at higher levels.”

Long Island added the expertise of former Rangers FC player and current trainer Stephen Gourlay of Hammer Athletics as the club’s official sports performance partner. Gourlay will work with the players to improve their performance through a tailored curricula and modern training technologies. The Rough Riders also partnered with New York University Winthrop Hospital, which will provide athletic trainers to aid the players in injury prevention and recovery.

To go hand-in-hand with those partnerships, the Rough Riders announced a relationship with New York Greek Americans of the Cosmopolitan League to provide players with year-round playing opportunities and establish a pipeline for players to progress through. Couple that with Long Island’s affiliation with New York City Football Club and the club has created a means for players to advance to the top level of soccer in the United States.

“We’re very happy, honored and proud to be a part of that,” Ferri said. “We’ve been around for over 20 years and helped develop many players and had many quality players come through our club. We feel this relationship has taken our program to the next level.”

The Rough Riders open the 2017 season with a doubleheader on Saturday, May 13 at St. Anthony’s High School. The women’s team hosts the Western New York Flash at 5 p.m. followed by the men’s team against the Westchester Flames at 7 p.m.

by Michael LoRé