The paint is not yet dry as improvements continue to be made at Patriot Stadium, but already everything appears a shade brighter. The oldest continuously running professional soccer franchise in the United States is poised to move back to the United Soccer League’s First Division beginning in 2008, one step removed from MLS. But first things first…
The El Paso Patriots have received their marching orders from the USL’s Premier Development League, a league featuring 63 teams at the sharp end of the grooming process for North American soccer talent.
Two seasons ago the Patriots reached the PDL finals, playing in front of 7,000 raucous El Pasoans and a national television audience and tying the Des Moines Menace after 120 minutes of action. Losing to the Menace in penalty kicks and not even making the playoffs last season leaves El Paso hungry for hardware.
Once again, the Patriots will feature an array of local and area talent, showcasing El Paso’s unique place in American soccer – unlike most other PDL teams, the Patriots draw from a mainly local, non-collegiate talent pool. And win.
Skill on the ball, vision on the field and hard work characterize El Paso soccer. A program that historically has given local players the chance they so rarely receive but so richly deserve to continue playing after high school is a critical component to the advancement of this local talent.
Including new up-and-coming players, a number of changes await fans coming to a revamped Patriot Stadium. Some are changes to the stadium itself. Capacity will be expanded. Added lighting and an incredible new sound system should be in place for opening weekend, May 4th and 5th, as the Patriots host the Austin Lightning.
Starting time will be different for home games as well, as El Paso will kick off at 8 p.m. Mountain Time to keep the desert sun from being too much of a factor for players. Excepting Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition, PDL matches will be exclusively weekend affairs, so families will have plenty of time for fun under the lights.
Once again, the Patriots will compete against area rivals Laredo, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and New Orleans in the Mid-South Division and the Southern Conference. New rivals Baton Rouge and Mississippi join the Mid-South and the PDL this season.