Provo • After competing in the Premier Developmental League the past 14 seasons, BYU’s men’s soccer team is returning to the club soccer ranks, the program announced on its website Thursday afternoon.
Men’s soccer is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport at BYU, but is a club team, much like the men’s and women’s rugby and men’s and women’s lacrosse teams. The move will enable the Cougars to play against other club teams in the area such as the University of Utah, Utah Valley and Weber State this fall.
“It has been an amazing run in the PDL and one that has provided so much opportunity for the players and staff, but now it is time to come back home,” head coach Brandon Gilliam said.
The PDL season ran in the months of May, June and July and the Cougars competed in the West Conference’s Mountain Division against semi-professional teams such as FC Tucson, Colorado Rapids U23, FC Boulder U23 and Albuquerque Sol FC.
Gilliam believes returning to club soccer and playing during fall semester will bring more students to the games because far more students are on campus in the fall than in the late spring and summer months. BYU will play Utah’s club soccer team on Sept. 27 at a site not yet announced.
A regional tournament will be held at UVU at the end of October, with the winner advancing to a national tournament in Arizona in late November.
After winning six national championships at the club level in 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1991 and 2001, BYU became the first college soccer program in the country to compete at the semi-pro level in the PDL in 2003, buying a franchise for about $40,000 in the league that operates outside of the NCAA’s control.
The move away from the club level in 2003 was seen as a way to stay in compliance with Title IX, the 1972 law that forced schools to offer women equal opportunities to men in sports. Women’s soccer at BYU is a varsity sport administered by the school’s athletic department and subject to NCAA rules and regulations.
The move back to the club level has had its share of detractors, mostly from former players who say the move represents a backward step for the program when soccer’s popularity is growing in the United States and the sport at the PDL level brought more diversity to campus.