The next United Soccer Leagues W-League season may be several months away, but head coach Hubert Busby Jr. is in the process of shaping his women's squad for the 2011 Vancouver Whitecaps FC season.
The Blue and White came one step short of winning a third W-League championship title last summer, and are keen to make amends for their defeat to Buffalo Flash in the final. Part of that process is identifying new talent, with Busby unlikely to have many of last season's key players returning following Canada's recent qualification for next summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.
Last weekend, Busby's search for talent took him to Cary, North Carolina, for the 2010 NCAA Division I Women's College Cup. The four top programs in US college women's soccer battled it out for the championship title, with University of Notre Dame winning a third national championship with a 1-0 win over previously-undefeated Stanford University in Sunday's final at WakeMed Soccer Park.
For Busby, the ability to add some top NCAA players to his squad will be crucial to Vancouver's title aspirations next season. "With the Canadian national team players not being available in 2011, having the ability to recruit the best college players into our program is an important option for us," Busby said. "There were some good teams and good players at this year's College Cup, so the idea was to find those one or two players that can fit into our team and have an impact next summer."
It was a busy trip for Busby in North Carolina, as he also had his Whitecaps FC U-18 Prospects squad in the 2010 Capital Area Soccer League VisitRaleigh.com Girls College Showcase Series. The young 'Caps won two matches in the Showcase, with a third match called off because of snowy weather.
Having promoted some young players into his first team last season, Busby believes there are players in his U-18 squad that may earn a chance at the W-League level next season. "There is a lot of potential in that squad," he revealed. "What was exciting for me was that we had two U-15 players playing in a high-level U-19 tournament and performing very well. Even our core of U-17 players performed well at the Showcase, with our team drawing the attention of many coaches from NCAA Division I schools. These periodical competitions are also a good measuring stick of where we are as a program. I think our efforts show that we have one of the better women's soccer programs in North America."
'Caps fans should expect to see a squad of emerging talent when they take to the pitch next May. "We were a young squad last year, but I think that in 2011, we'll be even younger," said Busby. "We're going to rely a little bit more on our homegrown players that we have produced and have gone on to schools in NCAA Division I. We'll be bringing those players back and handing them an opportunity, while adding some experienced senior players to go along with them."