VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Major League Soccer (MLS) announced today that Soccer Nova Scotia (SNS), Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association (NLSA), and Prince Edward Island Soccer Association (PEISA) have all agreed to new and expanded five-year player development partnerships. The Atlantic collaboration includes the creation of a BMO Atlantic Canada Development Centre (ACDC) and the addition of a Whitecaps FC BMO Eastern Canada head coach, Mike Ayyash, to serve as the ACDC’s head coach.
“We’re proud to be partnering with like-minded provincial governing bodies to grow the sport and develop soccer talent across the country as part of the Canada Soccer pathway,” said Axel Schuster, Whitecaps FC chief executive officer & sporting director. “It is significant that our collaboration includes placing a full-time Whitecaps FC head coach in Atlantic Canada and solidifying a five-year agreement that will take us through the World Cup in North America in 2026. For Atlantic players, this will provide more opportunities as a gateway to professional soccer, scholarships, and Canadian national teams, including a pathway to the Boys MLS Academy and the Girls Elite REX program in Vancouver.”
New Whitecaps FC BMO Eastern Canada head coach Mike Ayyash will take the lead in the Atlantic as the head coach. Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ayyash, in collaboration with Soccer Nova Scotia, will oversee high performance programming as well as provide oversight, support, and regular visits to the BMO Whitecaps FC NL and PEI Academy Centres. He will bring players from the three ACDC locations together for high level competition and participation in club combines and events. Additionally, Whitecaps FC will provide professional development opportunities for association staff and coaches.
Ayyash returns to Atlantic Canada where he spent eight years as technical director of Bedford Soccer Association, as well as a provincial team head coach and REX lead coach with Soccer Nova Scotia. Most recently, he spent the previous four years as technical director and head coach of Ontario club affiliate Whitecaps London, part of the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System. His years of leadership on and off the field in Southern Ontario helped build Whitecaps London into one of the top clubs in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL). Ayyash will also continue to oversee programming at Whitecaps London, to further connect opportunities for ACDC players and staff between the eastern provinces and Vancouver full-time programs. Ayyash begins his new role in February. For more information on Ayyash click here.
SNS is home to more than 20,000 members. Past players from the province to move through the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System include Canadian youth national team player Teni Akindoju, now playing at the University of Texas.
"We strongly feel this new partnership with Vancouver Whitecaps FC allows Soccer Nova Scotia to offer our aspiring players and coaches the best possible opportunity for their future development,” said Soccer Nova Scotia executive director Brad Lawlor. "We are also very excited to have Mike Ayyash back in our province to lead this program. Mike’s passion and hard work within the game was evident from his time working within NS and London. Mike’s ability to connect with, and develop our players and coaches and take them to the next level is exactly what we need within our organization. We are grateful for this opportunity and we are excited at what this partnership offers our players, coaches, and member organizations.”
NLSA 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.
“The NLSA is very pleased to continue our partnership agreement with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as it is an exciting opportunity for our players and coaches,” said Doug Redmond, NLSA president. “We are very pleased that Whitecaps FC offer opportunities for player development in both male and female pathways. In addition to player and coaching development, the partnership provides aspiring elite players with a clear picture of the development 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.”
PEISA has 12 member clubs from five regional districts, totaling more than 6,000 members including players, coaches, referees, and volunteers. From 2019 to 2020, local player Riad Jaha was selected to play in the boys MLS Academy in Vancouver.
“We were excited to start this journey with Vancouver Whitecaps FC over three years ago and we are just as excited to continue,” added Peter Wolters, PEI Soccer Association executive director. “The partnership has been and will continue to be a great step for our players and coaches to have access and opportunity to a professional club in our country. The Whitecaps deliver a great service to our male and female players and coaches. The value added to the performance program is immense, with players and coaches going to Vancouver and visits from Whitecaps staff. We look forward to the continued growth of the partnership. “
For further information about the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System, visit whitecapsfc.com/academy.
Soccer Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association
Prince Edward Island Soccer Association