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Semi-pro soccer coming to Port St. Lucie

January 29, 2016

By Paul Ivice, Special to Treasure Coast Newspapers

Posted: Yesterday 11:12 p.m.

PORT ST. LUCIE — When Mayor Greg Oravec declared "Surf's up!" on Thursday afternoon, he was putting on a soccer headband, not hanging 10.

The South Florida Surf of the Premier Development League (PDL) was officially awarded Thursday to Global Sport Group, an ownership group that will operate the franchise in Port St. Lucie.

Close to 100 people attended the news conference at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center

The Surf are the 65th team in the PDL, which will play the 2016 season with 67 teams in the United States and Canada, Commissioner Todd Eason said.

The shine of being the league's newest franchise wore off quickly, however, when the PDL awarded a franchise to Johnson City, Tennessee, later Thursday.

Though the season schedule will not be released until Friday, Surf general manager Eric Arbuzow said the team will play a 14-match schedule starting May 7, with their seven home contests at South County Regional Stadium.

Arbuzow, a Jupiter resident who played soccer at Palm Beach Gardens High School and Florida Atlantic University, played more than a decade in the PDL for three teams.

More recently he was an assistant coach for the PDL's Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Surf will play in a division with the league's six other Florida teams — West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Naples, Bradenton and The Villages.

Most of the matches will be on Saturday nights, with a few scheduled for Wednesdays.

The players must have amateur status, but the league focuses on players up to age 23 and is a massive supplier to Major League Soccer, having been a development league for 70 percent of MLS players, Eason said.

He said 12 PDL teams are owned by or have affiliation agreements with MLS teams.

"Every year we get more and more MLS teams knocking on our door, saying they need a feeder system," Eason said.

Surf head coach Pete Fuller said he feels a responsibility to provide fans with a quality product.

"We're like the front porch of a house," Fuller said. "We're not the most important room, but we're the most visible."

Arbuzow said he has signed agreements with 18 players, representing a dozen colleges and seven countries.

Though each team can dress 18 players for a match, the roster can have 26 to 30, Eason said.

Arbuzow said he expects to hold tryouts on an as-yet undetermined date, but he has seen players as young as 15 play in the PDL.

Noting that 3,500 Port St. Lucie children play youth soccer and 500 are still playing at high school age, Oravec said the Surf will be a good addition to the community.

"They (the Surf) are going to be a big part of the community, or at least we expect them to be," Oravec said.

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