Three Wisconsin teams – the Croatian Eagles, Milwaukee Bavarians and Madison 56ers – will play in the Premier League of America West Division in 2016.
The 11-team league, which was known as the Great Lakes Premier League during its inaugural season last year, announced its divisional setup Wednesday.
The state trio are joined by the Minnesota United Reserves and SSC Minneapolis City in the five-team West Division. Teams will play home-and-home series against each other for an eight-game league schedule.
Minnesota United Reserves, the second team of the North American Soccer League club that will join Major League Soccer in 2017 or '18, joined the 56ers in moving to the PLA after playing the past two years in the National Premier Soccer League. Minneapolis City is part of Stegman's SC, which has won 13 Minnesota state championships since being founded in 1977.
The East Division features six teams that will play 10 league matches: defending GLPL champion RWB Adria and Aurora Borealis from Illinois, along with Ohio's Toledo United and the Michigan trio of Carpathia FC, Oakland County and Ole SC.
Aris SC, which is now based in La Crosse after primarily playing out of Eau Claire when it was part of the NPSL, was announced as a PLA team last month, but will not be part of the league. Aris seemingly would have been the sixth team in the West. In social media posts, the league stated that it wasn't able to comment on the situation currently, but would do so "at the right time."
The top two teams in each division will contest a four-team playoff for the league title at the PLA Tournament, which is scheduled for July 30 and 31 at a neutral location. The other seven league sides will play consolation matches at the event. The location of the tournament and the PLA schedule will be released Jan. 26.
- The Croatians announced four more signings for their PLA team, with defenders Aaron Schroeder (Milwaukee Pius) and Aaron Cranfill (New Berlin West/UW-Milwaukee) and forward Andy Huftalin (Marquette) set to return and midfielder Amilcar Herrera (Milwaukee Riverside/Marquette) joining the team. Schroeder, a member of the club's 2012 National U.S. Open Cup-winning side, wore the captain's armband for the Eagles last season. Cranfill, a graduate assistant at UWM who started his college career at UW-Green Bay, helped the Panthers' backline post 10 shutouts and a program-record 0.63 goals-against average as a senior in 2013. The 25-year-old Huftalin tied for third in the GLPL last year with four goals and added two assists for the Croatians. Herrera, 25, has played professionally indoors with the Rockford Rampage, Chicago Mustangs, Chicago Soul and Milwaukee Wave.
- Marquette assistant Marcelo Santos was named the inaugural coach of the Kokomo (Ind.) Mantis, who open play in the Premier Development League this summer. The team is owned by Mike Zimmerman's MKE Sports and Entertainment, which also owns the Milwaukee Wave of the Major Arena Soccer League, and its unique nickname is an homage to a 17-foot tall statue of a praying mantis – dubbed "KokoMantis" – that was erected in Kokomo in 2012. Santos spent five years in the PDL with the Thunder Bay Chill, as a player in 2005 and '06 and then as an assistant coach from 2007 to '09. A native of Brazil, he also played professionally with Swedish club Sandareds IF and with three indoor teams, including the Wave in the 2006-07 season. Santos, who joined Marquette as a volunteer assistant in 2008 and served in that role for four seasons before becoming a full-time assistant, will continue to serve on Louis Bennett's coaching staff. On Twitter: @santoscoach
- Lawrence Talery (UW-Green Bay) made an impact at the NPSL Combine over the weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The 23-year-old Talery, who played for the Michigan Stars last summer after several seasons with his hometown Minnesota Twin Stars, drew two penalty kicks and converted the second one in the final minutes to give the Midwest Region side a 2-1 victory over the Northeast in Saturday's semifinals. The Midwest went on to beat the South 2-1 in Sunday's final.