With a record 74 teams participating in the Buffalo & District Soccer League, interest in the local amateur men's soccer league has never been higher. And yes, it's a little crazy that an amateur men's soccer league would have a "Signing Day."
Player registration opened for the season on Feb. 20 and - through announcements on Twitter - several difference-makers found new homes for the summer soccer campaign, while other premier clubs bolstered their sides with players previously unattached.
Here's a rundown of 10 of the biggest moves to affect the premier division:
*Chris Berardi, from Celtic United to Clarence Yotes
Impact: The former Canisius College midfielder must have seen something he liked during last year's Tehel Cup final, as the former United standout jumps from the runners-up to the champions in a move that makes sense for Clarence, whose roster is loaded with former Griffs.
Berardi's pace and work rate will improve the Yotes in the center of the park and, if attendance and health are strong, Clarence could trot out a frightening midfield of Andrea Conte, Gary Boughton, Berardi and Derek Maier.
*Moe Kassem, from Yemen Elite to Queenston FC
Impact: Yemen Elite manager Faress Saleh opted to play Kassem at fullback last year, giving Elite pace up the wing. The dynamo has moved to Queenston, where he's expected to feature higher up the pitch - Kassem is a capable striker eager to undress a defense with his speed and darting runs. Credit Queenston with strong recruiting over the winter at Sportsplex.
*Cody Rouse, Myles Taylor, from Southtowns and East Aurora, respectively, to Amherst Sharpshooters
Impact: The defending champions add intelligence and possession to their midfield through Rouse, who likely would have remained with Southtowns if they'd earned promotion, and Taylor, the John Carroll senior who's exceptional at keeping the ball moving and switching the point of attack. Don't be shocked if the Rouse signing goes down as one of the summer's biggest moves.
*Mo Musse, Hassan Abdi Sabtow and Mo Hussein from Buffalo Bantu to BUSS
Impact: BUSS' message to Buffalo Bantu: "Hey, welcome to premier. Now we're going to poach your three best players." The attacking trio combined for 17 of Bantu's 26 goals last season, paced by Musse's team-high 10. BUSS manager Bobby Calvaneso and chief recruiter Polo Suazo earn high marks for their Signing Day haul, but there are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed on his side.
Sabtow and Hussein are teammates on the Medaille squad that advanced to the Allegheny Mountain Athletic Conference finals last fall, while Musse was a key contributor to the rise of Grover Cleveland's (now I-Prep) high school program.
*Dan Barrie, unattached to Yemen Elite
Impact: The English import had a cup of tea with FC Buffalo late last summer and now will find himself leading Saleh's forward line. Barrie is a true No. 9 with a relentless work rate, has experience with the reserve sides for Wigan Athletic and Fulham, and fills a position of need for YE. Expect him to finish in the top five in premier division goal scoring, buoyed by the creativity of Elite's midfield general, Mateo Escobar.
*George Tor, unattached to BUSS
Impact: The lightning-quick Nigerian midfielder-forward should be the perfect complement to powerful strike partner Kyle Clifford, who excelled on his own last season. Tor, credited with one professional appearance for the United Soccer League's Rochester Rhinos, is one of the most decorated players in Medaille history.
*Rudy Pikuzinski III, unattached to BSC Raiders
Impact: After a year out of state, former Niagara United midfielder Rudy Pikuzinski returns to Raiders to direct Rocky Palmeiro's midfield. The son of the Buffalo Blizzard striker, Rudy Jr., the former Canisius College player is among the most technically gifted in the league, plus he brings a much needed jolt of poise and leadership to the semifinalists.
*Steve Casey, Matt Casey, unattached and Niagara FC, respectively, to Celtic United
Impact: Replacing Berardi's offensive production will be a tough task for Brian Theuerkauf and crew, but reinforcements in the back end begin to offset the loss. Niagara goalkeeper Steve Casey started for FC Buffalo in a slew of matches last summer, while brother Matt was far from overmatched in his first campaign at Fredonia.
Expect Steve to jockey with Queenston's John Netter and Sharpshooters' Adam Durst for the title of best keeper in premier.
*Ty Bentham, unattached to East Aurora FC
Impact: While Chris Norcia deserves credit for backstopping EAFC to three promotions in three years, it's no secret Ryan Keller and co. needed an upgrade in net for their first season in premier.
Enter Bentham, who played beyond his years as a freshman at Fredonia, helping the Blue Devils beat Buffalo State in the Battle of Lake Erie and then stymied Plattsburgh in penalty kicks for Fredonia's first playoff win in 10 years.
*Andrew Crawford, unattached to Amherst Sharpshooters
Impact: Sharpshooters add a defender groomed locally (Williamsville South, Empire DA) back after one season away. Crawford, a sturdy back who's Rider Broncs have advanced to the NCAA Tournament the last two years, joins a mean defense including Graham Harris, Jon Cary and Drew Braun.
Coming soon: 5 impact youth additions to BDSL premier.