July 31 in Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines Menace vs. Cary Clarets
-- In its 16th season, the Menace has set the standard for support in the PDL. Its Red Army Supporters' Club is one of the most colorful in all of the three USL men's league's. Des Moines has averaged 3,000 fans a game in recent years despite several stadium moves. The Menace drew 3,683 fans at Valley Stadium for its 2-1 win over the Real Colorado Foxes in the Heartland Division championship. The Menace is led by Armin Mujdzic, who starred at local NAIA power Grand View and UAB.
-- The Clarets, the former USL-1 RailHawks' U-23 team, are now affiliated with English Premier League club Burnley. They feature players from area ACC schools N.C. State North Carolina and Duke as well as North Carolina's fourth ACC school, Wake Forest. Duke's Christian Ibeagha earned all-conference honors for Cary.
Ocean City Barons vs. Chicago Fire
-- The Barons made a name for themselves this season when they beat two USL-2 teams to reach the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, where they fell to D.C. United, 2-0. They reached the PDL quarterfinals when they handed the Ottawa Fury its first loss of the season with a 2-1 road win in the Northeast Division championship. Goalie Tunde Ogunbiyi, who will play for Boston College after transferring from New Hampshire in the fall, earned all-conference honors.
-- The Fire, not a formal reserve team for the MLS club, has a rich tradition. Among the former Fire PDL players are three members of the U.S. Confederations Cup team, Ricardo Clark, Jay DeMerit and Brad Guzan, Bosnia international Vedad Ibisevic and American Eric Lichaj, who is pushing to earn a first-team spot at English club Aston Villa. With a 2-1 win over the Kalamazoo Outrage in the Great Lakes championship, the Fire PDL moved to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003 when current Fire pro players players Chris Rolfe and Dasan Robinson lead the PDL to the championship game. The 2009 standouts include goalie James Maurer (South Carolina), defender Mark Blades (Northwestern) and former U.S. U-20 forward Andre Akpan (Harvard).
July 31 in Laredo, Texas
Laredo Heat vs. Bradenton Academics
-- The Laredo Heat won the PDL title in 2007 and finished second in 2008. Despite the loss of young star Felix Garcia, who first signed with MLS's Houston Dynamo in January, then returned home and has sat out 2009, the Heat returned to the final eight with a 1-0 overtime victory against the West Texas United Sockers in the Mid South final. Goalie Ryan Cooper and midfielders Danny Galvan and Greg Mulamba earned all-conference honors.
-- The Academics, affiliated with the IMG Academies, traveled to Mississippi and won the Southeast champion, handing the New Orleans Jesters their first loss of the season, then ending the Mississippi Brilla's season with a 3-2 win on an overtime goal by Steve Morris, who spent time in Honduras after finishing high school. Bradenton is led by West Virginia Zach Johnson in goal and repeat all-conference pick Zak Boggs (South Florida) and former USF star Hunter West up front.
Ventura County Fusion vs. Kitsap Pumas
-- The Fusion is best known as the club that produced Anton Peterlin, who signed with Everton. The third-year Fusion won the Southwest Division title with a 3-1 overtime win over the Hollywood United Hitmen. The winning goal was scored by 18-year-old Sam Myerson. Another of the Fusion's young stars is UC Santa Barbara sophomore Danny Barrera.
-- With temperatures hovering around a record 100 degrees, the Kitsap Pumas found the conditions in Texas bearable when they arrived for Friday's quarterfinals. In its first season in the PDL, Kitsap, located on the peninsula across the Puget Sound from Seattle, won the Northwestern championship with a 2-0 win over the Seattle Wolves. Stephen Phillips had a goal and an assist against the Wolves. goalkeeper Dustyn Brim and defender Mark Lee were honored as members of the Premier Development League's All-Western Conference team.