Eight franchises form BC Soccer's High Performance League

Whitecaps FC provide assistance in HPL formation

Eight founding franchises representing more than 80 per cent of the population of British Columbia will form the inaugural roster of entries in the new BC Soccer Premier League announced today by BC Soccer, its board of directors and the High Performance League committee formed to create the new player development initiative.

The eight founding franchises for the BC Soccer Premier League are:

Abbotsford Soccer Association
Burnaby/North Shore
Coquitlam Metro-Ford Soccer Club
Lower Island Soccer Association/Upper Island Soccer Association (Vancouver Island)
South Fraser Soccer Club
Surrey United Soccer Club
Thompson Okanagan Football Club
Vancouver/Richmond

“We’re delighted to launch the new BC Soccer Premier League on the strength of these eight founding franchises,” said Steve Allen of Surrey, BC, the member of the BC Soccer board of directors who served as chair of the HPL Committee that comprised of 16 soccer leaders from the club, district, and league level in BC. “We’re excited to welcome the eight founding franchises to what will be the top tier of soccer competition in the province and we look forward to working with the franchises and our membership to build the BC Soccer Premier League into something special for the game at all levels.

“Our spirit of intent is to create the best possible conditions for player development and to support Canada’s national team program and strengthen the game throughout BC and across the country,” said Allen. “There is not a better time to be doing that with the support of strong stakeholders such as the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and our membership, especially given the interest, excitement, and energy being generated for the game with the debut of Whitecaps FC in Major League Soccer and another MLS franchise scheduled for Montreal next year.”

The BC Soccer Premier League will run a pilot mini-season this fall and launch its first full season in March 2012, when it will immediately take its place among the major provincial sports leagues in British Columbia. Founding franchises in the new league feature clubs serving players in strong BC sports markets such as Vancouver, Chilliwack, Kamloops, and Kelowna in the Western Hockey League and BC Hockey League centres such as Alberni Valley, Coquitlam, Cowichan Valley, Langley, Nanaimo, Penticton, Powell River, Salmon Arm, Surrey, Vernon, Victoria, and Westside (Kelowna), along with the American Hockey League hub of Abbotsford.

“The BC Soccer Premier League will have a tremendous reach and local presence built on the infrastructure of the founding franchises and will be right up there with the leading provincial platforms in other sports,” noted BC Soccer executive director Bjorn Osieck of North Vancouver, BC. “As an example, in our inaugural year, the league will cover 12 of 16 BCHL markets and four of the six markets synonymous with the WHL’s BC Division.”

The inaugural roster of franchises was accepted by the HPL committee and submitted to the board of directors on recommendations from a selection panel comprised of Whitecaps FC chief executive officer Paul Barber, Canadian U-17 national team head coach Sean Fleming, and BC Soccer director of operations Paul Mullen, who is a former executive with the English Football Association (FA).

“This process has created an excitement for the game in our community and throughout the province, and we congratulate not only the successful franchises, but all of the applicants for their time, effort, and cooperation in putting forward very strong submissions,” said Barber. “With the emergence of the BC Soccer Premier League and Whitecaps FC's launch into Major League Soccer, soccer interest in British Columbia is at an all-time high.”

The HPL committee brought together a series of key player development principles and alignment, with competitive platforms across the country. As an example, the playing season for the BC Soccer Premier League, which will feature divisions of play at the U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16 and U-17/U-18 levels, shall be from March to November.

"We thank the HPL committee members, our tripartite selection panel, and of course our membership, which has been very supportive and enthusiastic about what this will mean for soccer in BC, and over the long term, across Canada,” said Charlie Cuzzetto of Vancouver, president and chair of the board of directors of BC Soccer. “The BC Soccer Premier League is certainly about the top boys and girls players in the province, but by creating a new tier of play, it will also help improve the game for all players at all levels.”