As the Buffalo & District Soccer League has expanded in size, it's also gotten younger.
New sides Grand Island FC and Crusaders FC (Canisius) pull largely from their respective high school programs, while recent entrants Pendleton United boasts several players from Starpoint and the Williamsville Willies draw primarily from Williamsville North. There are several more examples.
Although many local soccer players in their late high school years can play premier at the U-18 and U-19 levels - and get one more shot at State Cup - more are planning to spend June and July playing in the Buffalo amateur soccer league to stay sharp and prepare for the physicality of higher levels.
With this influx of younger talent in mind, here are 10 high school players - listed in no particular order - who've joined premier or championship division sides for this summer.
Note: Other standouts, like Noah Keem and Trevor Moreland, have already been playing on high-level teams, and return for this summer. More on them at the bottom.
1) Pa Lu, senior at International Prep --> joins premier division BSC Raiders
Impact: The Section VI boys player of the year and all-state pick joins BDSL royalty in the Raiders, who've won the league two of the last three seasons. Although the fit isn't quite seamless, Lu's chance to play at the local amateur league's highest level will prepare him for college soccer. Thirty-two goals and 21 assists as a senior, four straight sectional titles and a state championship are quite the resume for the I-Prep stalwart.
2) Sam Sutherland, senior at Clarence --> joins premier division Clarence Yotes
Impact: The industrious Clarence HS forward, whose work rate is among, if not the best on this list, has an advantage from playing last summer for BUSS, scoring in a wild 3-3 draw against league-winners Sharpshooters. Clarence Yotes are one of the older sides in BDSL premier, so Sutherland's youthful exuberance will be a useful addition.
3) Brett Stern, senior at Newfane --> joins premier division Roos FC
Impact: The Empire Development Academy product - who starred at Newfane as an eighth grader before taking the jump - has signed to play collegiately for Duquesne, and although he'll miss a portion of the BDSL season to play State Cup, his pace and finishing will be a mid-season jolt for a Roos team eager to get younger.
4) Bryce Schiltz, junior at East Aurora --> joins premier division East Aurora FC
Impact: One of only two non-seniors to be chosen All-Western New York last fall, Schiltz boasts attacking sense beyond his years, posting 15 goals and 13 assists for the Blue Devils. He will shoulder little to no pressure as a member of EA FC, who already feature attacking midfielders Parker Healy, Ryan Keller, Cole Beale and Vinny Chimento, among others.
5) Abdi Salim, sophomore at Hutch Tech --> joins premier division FC Yemen
Impact: The younger brother of FC Yemen teammate, Saleman Salim - who's also a good addition, by the way, becomes the youngest player in the BDSL, by our count. Don't expect Abdi to be a regular right away, but playing in the premier division will be invaluable experience for the Hutch Tech midfielder, who has two years remaining in high school.
6) Nemanja Simic, senior at Grand Island --> joins championship division Beast City FC
Impact: One of the top players on the Global Premier Soccer U-18's, Simic shined for Grand Island in their run to the state finals. There simply are not many holes in his game, and he seems best positioned of the three Western New York recruits to receive playing time early on at UB. It's notable that Simic has opted to play in championship, with many of his high school friends and teammates on the expansion, division one Grand Island FC.
7) Cameron Law, senior at Clarence --> joins championship division Beast City FC
Impact: Came back from the Empire Development Academy to play for Global Premier Soccer and Clarence High School last year, and helped take the Red Devils to a sectional title.
The smooth, lanky center midfielder produced 13 assists in his senior season and, like Simic, has signed with the University at Buffalo. It's possible he slots in as a central or outside back on Beast, too.
8) Cesar Carlin, junior at Wilson --> joins championship division Niagara FC
Impact: All he does is score in high school soccer - 37 goals for Wilson as a junior - and a summer in the championship division will pit him against bigger and equally as fast defenders, a serious step up from the Niagara-Orleans League of Section VI.
With Nick Colao, Frankie Valente, Mike Thompson and Brandon Horton as fellow strikers on Niagara FC's roster, Carlin can be eased into the fray.
9) Justin Weiskerger, senior at Hamburg --> joins championship division FC Quake [Update: Weiskerger ultimately chose Southtowns FPFC over Quake]
Impact: The 5'5 ball of fury will fit in snugly with Quake, who prefer to grind out results rather than play aesthetic soccer.
The Empire United product won't shy away from the league's pace and physicality, and his high school production - 10 goals, nine assists as a Hamburg senior - shows his balance in the attack.
10) Cullen Ingraham, junior at Hamburg --> joins championship division Quake
Impact: A much different player than Weiskerger, Ingraham profiles as a No. 10 type with great vision and distribution, notching 12 assists for the Bulldogs as a high school junior.
A Hamburg Monarch club player through and through, a season in the BDSL should put him in position for an exceptional senior campaign.
Several 2016 All-Western New York players are already on BDSL teams in premier or championship, while others play in lower divisions. Trevor Moreland (Newfane) is a key cog in Roos' machine, Noah Keem (Sweet Home) returns for another year with Beast City, while Jackson Retzer (Williamsville North) comes back for Williamsville Willies, both in championship.
Dylan Guarino (Crimson Fire), Jake Gleave (Grand Island) and Garrett Robinson (Grand Island) are all in division one. It's possible, although not certain, that Mike Mazzara and Max Montante will suit up for newly formed Crusaders FC in the same division.