By Joey Page
Exciting times are coming for the professional soccer scene in Birmingham. Birmingham Legion has the city buzzing, and rightfully so. However, Legion doesn’t take the field until 2019. In the meantime, what is the local Birmingham soccer fan to do? I’m glad you asked. This summer, the Birmingham Hammers will still be playing. There is no need to wait until 2019 to support local soccer, and you should take the chance to support the Hammers in their curtain call season.
The Hammers will be playing in the Premier Development League, after playing in the National Premier Soccer league last season. They will play in the newly created Deep South Division, and as such their schedule will feature a slate of southeastern based teams. Their home games will be played at Samford University, and as of now there are 7 home games on the schedule. The season kicks off on May 16th with a home game against Memphis.
What does this season mean for the Hammers and the fans? For starters, this season will be the last chance to see the Hammers in action. The Hammers may not have been the first soccer club in the Magic City (we see you Grasshoppers and Pumas FC), but they were the organization that helped spring soccer to the professional level, and this season is a great opportunity to send them out in style.
Second, this will be a test run of sorts before Birmingham Legion takes over. While we don’t know if the coach or any of the players will be the same from summer 2018 to summer 2019, the front office will have some continuity. President and General Manager Jay Heaps and Vice President Morgan Copes will have the opportunity to work out some of the kinks before 2019 arrives.
The Hammers will look to improve on a 1-9-2 record from last season and seek to lay the groundwork for Birmingham Legion FC. Check out the full schedule here, and below you will find all you need to know about the Hammers’ 2018 PDL opponents.
Home: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 (7:30 CST) – Samford University
Away: Saturday, July 14, 2018 (7:00 CST) – TBD
What you need to know: There isn’t much to say about the team termed “Memphis, Tennessee”, because, well, they aren’t a team yet. The assumption is that the former Memphis City FC of the NPSL will be making the jump to the PDL, but there is no official word on this yet. Memphis City played their 2017 home games at Christian Brothers High School, but once again no word on if that will be the home venue for 2018. What we know for sure is that the Hammers will kick off their 2018 season against a team from Memphis in some shape or fashion, so come on out on May 16th and we will see who shows up.
Peachtree City MOBA
Home: Saturday, June 30, 2018 (7:30 CST) – Samford University
Away: Saturday, May 19, 2018 (7:30 EST / 6:30 PM CST) – MOBA Soccer Complex
What you need to know: Peachtree City enters their 3rd season In the PDL looking to improve on a 2-2-10 record and a 11th place finish in the South Atlantic Division last season. They have completely restructured their coaching staff entering the 2018 season, with former player Omar Jarun taking the reigns as manager. Jarun is a Peachtree City native with international experience with the Palestinian national team, in addition to a long successful professional career. Look for a revitalized team entering 2018, and a good early season challenge for the Hammers first away game.
Mississippi Brilla FC
Home: Saturday, May 26, 2018 (7:30 CST) – Samford University; Saturday, June 2, 2018 (7:30 CST) – Samford University
Away: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 (7:00 CST) – Clinton HS: Arrow Field; Saturday, June 16, 2018 (7:00 CST) – Clinton HS: Arrow Field
What you need to know: Mississippi Brilla enter the Deep South Division as one of the most consistent and successful southeastern PDL teams. Having played in the league since 2007, they know the lay of the land, and were crowned division champs in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2015. Last season, Mississippi Brilla advanced to the PDL semifinals before losing to eventual PDL champions the Charlotte Eagles.
If you are looking for the preseason favorite in the Deep South Division, Mississippi is probably your team. There is something to be said for continuity and experience in a league like the PDL, and Mississippi will be looking to build on last season’s success. Unfortunately for the Hammers, Mississippi is on the schedule 4 times this summer, the only team we play more than twice. This will be a crucial stretch for the Hammers, especially the back to back home games on May 26th and June 2nd, as good results there could provide the Hammers with great momentum for the rest of the season. If success is on the books for the Hammers in 2018, it will have to come through dominant showings against Mississippi Brilla.
SC United Bantams
Home: Saturday, June 9, 2018 (7:30 CST) – Samford University
Away: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 (7:30 EST / 6:30 CST) – SCUFC Soccer Complex
What you need to know: Another oldveteran of the PDL, the Bantams have been playing in the league since 2012. While never boasting anything better than a 3rd place finish in their division, the Bantams’ experience in the league could prove crucial compared to the transitions other teams are working through. Also, SC United head coach Lee Morris formerly played in the English Premier League in addition to being a member of England’s U18 and U21 teams. It may be difficult to find a head coach in the PDL with a better playing resume than his.
Home: Tuesday, June 26, 2018 (7:30 CST) – Samford University
Away: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 (7:00 EST / 6:00 CST) – Kermit-Tipton Stadium
What you need to know: Although they may boast the most original and unique logo and branding in the PDL, success on the field has been hard to find for the Tri-Cities Otters entering their third season. 2016 brought a 1-10-3 record and a last place finish in the division, while 2017 brought a 3-9-2 record and a slightly improved 9th place finish. The Otters will continue to look for steady improvement entering 2018.
South Georgia Tormenta FC
Home: Thursday, July 5, 2018 (7:30 CST) – Samford University
Away: Saturday, June 23, 2018 (8:00 EST / 7:00 CST) – Erk Russell Park
What you need to know: The feel-good story of lower level soccer, South Georgia Tormenta has been making a lot of waves this past year. 2018 will be Tormenta’s third and final season in the PDL, before making the jump to the newly formed USL Division III as a founding member. For a team that hasn’t been on the block long, Tormenta has seen good success in the PDL thus far. 2017 brought a 4th place finish, a 7-3-4 record and the second-best goal differential in the division. Look for an ambitious ownership group to improve on that success in 2018 and end South Georgia’s PDL tenure on a high note.
(Speaking of making waves and ambitious ownership, check out the renderings for the soccer specific stadium that will host the team upon its entry to USL Division III)