Vancouver Whitecaps FC have long been home to some of the best young women’s soccer talents in Canada.
You know the names.
Olympic gold medalists for Canada’s senior women’s national team.
Mia Pante and Holly Ward.
Key players for Canada’s U-20 women’s national team heading to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in August.
“Whitecaps FC have always invested in the future of the women’s game,” noted Emma Humphries, Whitecaps FC director of women’s football. “The club takes great pride in seeing the next generation come through the program.”
For many years, however, there has not been a local competitive league for these top players to compete in.
They’ve played friendly matches against university sides, men’s teams, and traveled for showcase tournaments. They’ve shown their talent time and time again, earning scholarships to the best schools in the United States and Canada.
But they didn’t have that weekly pressure to look at the standings and push for three points.
For the latest generation of ‘Caps, that is all changing this year with the inaugural season of League1 BC, the top tier of pro-am soccer in the province, connecting nationwide to League1 Canada.
“The fact that we now have a league for the women and the men is super important,” said Katie Collar, head coach of the club’s League1 BC women’s team. “Especially for the young players that are aspiring for more and aspiring to get into the professional game and the international game. So super excited, I think it’s a great opportunity for the players and coaches.”
And this group, like those before them, is mighty talented.
10 players dot the roster from Canada’s recent U-17 national team that qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in October.
“The future is really bright,” tells Humphries. “You could be coming out to see some players that may be given chances to break through to the senior team. There is a lot to be excited about with this group and where they are heading. League1 BC is a great platform to see what the future will bring.”
“We’ll have a young team in the league, but we’ll be competitive,” added Collar. “We’ve got some really good young players, so it will be great to watch them come and compete against the women.”
Competition. Not only for the U-17 players, but also those who are preparing to start their university careers in the coming months.
“I think it’s really important for all of our players to have meaningful games,” added Collar. “Having that ability to compete for a league and compete for a title. A lot of our players haven’t had enough chance to do that. In terms of development, going into university and going into professional environments, they need to learn how to win.”
And there is a bigger prize at stake as well. The winners of League1 BC, League1 Ontario, and Première ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ) will compete in a Women’s Inter-Provincial Championship in Laval, Quebec from August 12 to 14.
For Collar, she is excited to take on a new challenge and work with some of the best young players in Canada.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to learn and grow as well. For me, I’m all about culture and I’m all about character, so making sure that we’re bringing that out of the players and helping them have success.”