The Michigan Bucks of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) opened their first season in 1996 as the Mid Michigan Bucks, based out of Saginaw. The side qualified for the Premier Six National Finals tournament in each of their first two seasons in 1996 (Cocoa Beach, FL) and 1997 (Central Coast, CA). The Bucks were Great Lakes Division champions in each of their first five seasons, from 1996-2000 and made their first appearance in the National Championship game in 2000, where they lost 1-0 to the Chicago Sockers
The minor league affiliate of the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer (MLS) moved to Detroit permanently in 2004 and now known as the Michigan Bucks, became one of the most storied franchises in PDL history with their unprecedented success in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament. The nation’s oldest tournament is open to all amateur and professional teams in the US, in which the more you win, the higher the level of team you play. The Bucks first became eligible for the Open Cup in 1997, when they beat their first ever professional team, defeating the Wilmington Hammerheads 3-2 in North Carolina before falling to the tournament’s eventual champions Rochester Rhinos in overtime. The run set the tone for what would become one of the team’s main goals each season.
In 1999 the Bucks beat two more pro teams: (Austin 3-2) and the defending A-League Champion Minnesota Thunder 2-1 to earn a third round home game on July 12, 1999 against the Tampa Bay Mutiny of MLS. A sell-out crowd of 4,887 people packed 2,000 seat White Pine Stadium in Saginaw to see Carlos Valderrama and the Mutiny defeat the Bucks, 2-1.
The year 2000 was the Bucks best in history, as they went to the National Finals before falling to Chicago. However, it was the Open Cup that made this year special. The Saginaw side traveled to Foxboro Stadium to take on the New England Revolution in second round action. The Bucks became the first PDL team in history to defeat an MLS club, when they upset the Revolution on a goal from Chad Schomaker in the 90th minute to win 1-0. The Bucks were then granted the right to host the third round, against the Miami Fusion of MLS.
In what has been touted as the “greatest game ever played in Open Cup history,” the Bucks played the Fusion down a man for the entire second half, came from behind twice, scored in the 88th minute to tie the game at 3-3, stopped a penalty kick in the 90th minute, scored in overtime to win; only to have the goal taken away by the referee, a controversial call made 40 yards behind the play. The game went to penalty kicks, where after both teams converted all 5 kicks, Miami’s Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids, US National Team) converted the 6th and final kick to put the Fusion into the fourth round. Later that season, the team won their first ever PDL Regular Season Championship
In 2001, the Bucks once again qualified for the Open Cup by beating the Michigan Chaldean Arsenal 3-0 in Round One, setting up a rematch with the New England Revolution. This time out the Revs had one thing on their mind, and that was revenge. The senior squad beat the Bucks 7-1 in the Foxboro rematch.
In 2003, the Bucks defeated yet another professional team when they beat the Long Island Rough Riders 2-1 and then hosted the MetroStars of MLS. The Bucks were outclassed this year as well, losing to the MLS team 4-0 before nearly 4,000 people at Berkley’s Hurley Field.
In November 2005, the Bucks and team owners Dan and Jim Duggan were inducted into the USL Soccer Hall of Fame.
In 2006, the Bucks again qualified for the US Open Cup and defeated USL-2 sides the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2-0) and Cincinnati Kings (2-1) on the way to their matchup against their affiliate team the Columbus Crew. Again the PDL side was overmatched, falling 4-1 in the third round at Stoney Creek High School. Later that year the Bucks found a late season surge and went on to win their first PDL Championship in a 2-1 victory over the Laredo Heat in Laredo, TX.
In August 2007, the Bucks returned to the PDL Championship Match losing to the Laredo Heat on penalties after playing to a 0-0 draw in Laredo, TX.
In July 2008, the Bucks clinched the PDL Regular Season Championship, their second in franchise history.
Within the 67 team framework that makes up the PDL, the Bucks have established the following records:
Most overall league victories - 181
Most overall regular season wins - 157
Most overall playoff wins - 18
Most consecutive winning seasons - 14
Most playoff appearances - 12
Most Division titles - 7
Most PDL Quarterfinal appearances - 9
Most MLS teams faced in the US Open Cup - 6
Most professional teams defeated in the US Open Cup - 6
Most MLS teams defeated in the US Open Cup - 1
Most PDL Regular Season Championships - 2
Most PDL Coach of the year awards - 3
Most PDL Executive of the year awards - 3
In addition, the Bucks have had 28 players drafted by MLS since 1999. There are Bucks players currently playing professional soccer in the United States, England, Scotland, Norway, Belgium, Israel, Trinidad & Tobago, and Puerto Rico.