EA SPORTS BC Soccer Premier League a goldmine for Whitecaps FC scouts

'Caps keeping close tabs on BCSPL players

The emergence of the EA SPORTS BC Soccer Premier League (BCSPL) in British Columbia has given Vancouver Whitecaps FC scouts a whole new talent pool to choose from.

The BCSPL, founded in the fall of 2011, created a platform for the best players in the province to compete. This same platform has given Whitecaps scouts a chance to watch all of B.C’s best compete.

Stuart Neely, head of high performance with Whitecaps FC, explained the relationship between the league and Whitecaps FC.

“The involvement is fairly straightforward. We have an agreement with BC Soccer and the league that offers us the ability for our coaches to go out and scout league games.”

In recent years BC Soccer and Whitecaps FC have developed a very good working relationship, but this wasn’t always the case.

Neely credits past hard feelings to a problem with Whitecaps FC poaching talent from BC Soccer.

“The relationship has grown because the Whitecaps have listened to the league and the local community,” he said. “I think part of the issue was [Whitecaps FC] taking players away at a young age so they don’t even get the opportunity to play in the league.”

According to Neely, the new relationship between Whitecaps FC and BC Soccer has mended this problem.

“Different players mature at different rates, so the younger they are, the more potential they have to grow. By missing the league play they are missing a competitive environment. They now have that by playing in the league for at least a year, if not longer. It gives us an opportunity to scout the players in league play for at least a year before we identify them for future Whitecaps programing.”

Player development is not an overnight process but Neely says the hope is that the new relationship between Whitecaps FC and BC Soccer will create a breeding ground for future pros.

“We just need give them a platform for having success in the game regardless of what level they play,” he said. “Just because they don’t play for Whitecaps FC or the province or the national team doesn’t mean they are not going to go on to play professional football, or not go on to play NCAA or CIS.”

The EA SPORTS BC Soccer Premier League was created with eight founding clubs, six in the lower mainland, one on Vancouver Island and one based in the Okanagan Valley. The focus of the league is player development through increased competition for elite soccer athletes. A mini-season took place from September through November 2011 to prepare for the full season commencing in February 2012. The league features divisions in the U-13 through U-18 levels. Competition is from February through November each year.

For more stories on youth soccer in British Columbia, visit http://beaconnews.ca/vancouver