With little room for argument, they are the Premier Development League’s two most storied franchises. Through the years, they’ve combined for 360 wins, 25 playoff appearances and 14 berths in the U.S. Open Cup.
And, on Friday night, their parallel paths collide in the PDL Central Conference semifinals.
The Des Moines Menace and the Michigan Bucks tangle at 8 o’clock EDT. Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, Mich., is the site of the fifth postseason meeting between the PDL juggernauts.
“They’re two of the best teams in the whole league, in terms of their operations and how they’re run,” said Menace head coach Laurie Calloway. “They’re always competitive, year in and year out.”
The Bucks (193-75-27 in 16 regular seasons) and the Menace (167-98-19 in 18 regular seasons) are the PDL’s all-time wins leaders.
It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the organizations’ celebrated histories, which trace back to the league’s early years.
The Menace began in 1994; the Bucks debuted in 1996. Des Moines makes its 11th playoff appearance; Michigan makes its 14th. The Menace has appeared in six Open Cups; the Bucks have appeared in eight.
The clubs won back-to-back PDL championships, in 2005 and 2006.
The teams’ similarities don’t stop there. Their playing styles share a focus on creating scoring opportunities. Dan Duggan, the Bucks’ Chairman and CEO, said this makes Friday’s matchup exciting for fans.
“The teams will mirror each other,” said Duggan. “You’re going to see high-level soccer, high-intensity soccer, played by two very good technical teams. They’re both attacking teams, so there will be a lot of chances. Fans can expect end-to-end action the whole game.”
Calloway drew similarities to the teams' leadership off the field. Duggan co-founded the Bucks with his brother Jim. The Menace is owned by Kum & Go CEO and President Kyle Krause, who acquired majority ownership in 1998.
“There’s a lot of passion from the ownerships,” Calloway said. “They run things at a high level. They want their teams to win it all every year and get back to the Open Cup. That’s what puts us on par with each other.”
These teams have not seen each other since 2005, when home-team Des Moines beat the Bucks on the way to the crown. A year later, the Bucks returned to Waukee Stadium, where they started their title run with a pair of wins – including one against the Chicago Fire PDL squad that had won a shootout to stop the Menace’s repeat bid.
The Bucks eliminated the Menace from the playoffs in 1997, 2002 and 2003, when they were known as the Mid-Michigan Bucks.
Calloway and assistant coach Neathan Gibson won’t soon forget the 2002 matchup, played at Hoover’s Cara McGrane Stadium. They led Des Moines to an undefeated 2002 season (15-0-3) that ended abruptly in the first round of the playoffs, with a 3-1 loss to the Bucks.
Calloway and Gibson left Des Moines before the 2003 season, and they reunited before last season. In their first playoff game back on the Menace sideline, they have payback on their minds.
“I wouldn’t exactly say we have a vendetta,” Calloway said, adding, “but, for Neathan and me, it makes it doubly important we knock them off this time around, on their home field.”
FANS’ GUIDE TO THE PDL PLAYOFFS: Click here to follow the Menace in the postseason, with updated info on matchups and more.
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace competes in the 64-team United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL), the highest amateur level of soccer in North America. The Menace plays its home matches in a fun, family-friendly environment at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines. The organization promotes a healthy lifestyle through its popular youth programs, including the Menace Academy (select soccer for ages 9-19), camps, clinics and tournaments.
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