WASHINGTON - A group led by Baltimore-Washington soccer stalwart Lincoln Phillips has been granted a franchise in the under-23 Premier Development League, American soccer's equivalent of Single-A baseball.
Chesapeake United, with a roster of unpaid, college-age players, will compete out of Landover in Prince George's County in the 46-team PDL's Northeast Division. Opponents are to include two New York City teams, two in New Jersey, and others in Westchester County, N.Y., and Vermont, and on Cape Cod, Mass.
Phillips, 59, a Columbia resident now in the Caribbean on a coaching tour and unavailable for comment, will be coach and board chairman. His son, Sheldon, 33, will be the general manager.
"This is something we've been wanting to do for a long, long time," said the younger Phillips, now a Baltimore resident who graduated from Atholton High in 1984; he also attended Wilde Lake. After completing a law degree at Hampton University, he became general manager of the Columbia-based Maryland Mania, a one-season (1999) flop in the pro A-League.
The PDL team, he said, paid a $20,000 entry fee and had to produce a $15,000 letter of credit. It will play a 20-game season, 10 at home, between April and July with playoffs lasting into August.
The team's home is to be the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, which may not be ready in time, requiring United to play elsewhere in Landover.
The PDL is the lowest-ranked of three men's divisions in the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the pro A-League and the semipro D-3 Pro League, American pro soccer's two minor leagues.
The PDL employs an age limit of 23, but eight "overage" players are allowed. Eleven players can be paid, but like most teams, Phillips said Chesapeake will use unpaid college players, who maintain NCAA eligibility, and recent graduates.
The elder Phillips, a former Trinidad & Tobago national-team goalkeeper, came to Baltimore in 1968 to play for the Bays and Comets, as well as Washington Darts, in the old National Professional Soccer League.
He coached teams at Howard University to two NCAA men's titles in the early 1970s, one of them vacated for use of ineligible players. He also has coached at Virginia Commonwealth University, taught U.S. national team goalkeepers, and in the late 1970s was the Soccer Association of Columbia's coaching director.