Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association (NLSA) have partnered on a groundbreaking professional development pathway for youth players in the province.
“I have fond memories of the passion for soccer in Newfoundland and Labrador from playing here with Canada’s men’s national team in 1985 and beating Honduras to qualify for the World Cup,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “Our goal now is to help Canada’s men get back to the World Cup, and to help our women’s national team continue to succeed. Our aim is to develop players from coast to coast, raise standards, and monitor their progress. We’re proud to partner with the NLSA to amplify player development and provide opportunities.”
As part of the partnership, Whitecaps FC and the NLSA will collaborate on high performance programs, including plans to run prospects programs for boys and girls ages U-13 to U-17, as well as pre-prospects programs at the U-12 level. The top players from the province will be monitored and evaluated for the full-time professional club environment in Vancouver through the Whitecaps FC Residency and Girls Elite REX programs. Whitecaps FC Vancouver staff will make regular visits to Newfoundland and Labrador, while players will also have the opportunity to travel to Vancouver for tournaments, to watch first team matches at BC Place, and to be invited for further evaluations. All new programs are planned to begin this coming fall.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association consists of 30 member clubs from 11 regions and currently boasts a player membership of 12,000 participants. The NLSA is the second largest sporting governing body in Newfoundland and Labrador. Whitecaps FC academy centre programs will be led by NLSA technical director Dragan Mirkovic and player development director Mike Power.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our youth players and coaches,” said NLSA president Doug Redmond. “We are particularly pleased that Whitecaps FC offer opportunities for player development in both male and female pathways. In addition to player and coaching development through the Whitecaps FC education curriculum, the partnership provides aspiring elite players with a clear picture of the developmental progression required to play at the national and professional levels. I commend the Whitecaps FC organization for its vision in extending its programming from coast to coast and enriching the next generation of soccer players.”
Whitecaps FC Academy Centres are a network of regional training hubs linked through key staff, curriculum, and standards that provide professional supplemental club training for serious, motivated players. Planning and curriculum are overseen by Bart Choufour, director and head coach of Whitecaps FC Academy Centres. The Whitecaps FC academy network currently extends across seven provinces, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and 10 locations throughout British Columbia.
In the past year alone, more than 40 Whitecaps FC youth players have been selected to Canadian national teams. Currently among Whitecaps FC Academy Centre players, London Youth Whitecaps goalkeeper Rylee Forster is a member of Canada’s U-20 women’s national team. On the boy’s side, players from the club’s academy centres in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario were recently selected to join the Whitecaps FC professional Residency program in Vancouver this fall.