The Fraser Valley soccer scene is expanding yet again, with news that Abbotsford’s Magnuson Ford FC has been awarded a franchise in the new B.C. Soccer Premier League.
Formerly known as the Abbotsford Soccer Association, MFFC is one of eight founding franchises in the Premier League, which replaces metro (girls) and selects (boys) as the top tier of youth soccer in the province.
“It’s a big sigh of relief that we were successful,” Magnuson Ford FC president Brad Nicholl said. “We’re on Cloud 9 right now, but we’ve got to move forward. We can’t sit back at all.”
The Premier League, known informally as the High Performance League (HPL) during the development stages, features six regional teams in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, one on Vancouver Island and one in the Interior.
Each franchise fields boys and girls teams from U-13 to U-18.
In addition to Abbotsford, the other franchises are Burnaby/North Shore; Coquitlam Metro Ford; Surrey United; South Fraser Soccer Club; Vancouver/Richmond; Lower Island/Upper Island Associations (Vancouver Island); and Thompson Okanagan FC.
What does it mean to Chilliwack?
“It gives the players within our club, whose ambition is to play at the highest level they can, the opportunity to to try out for PL teams and play at that level,” said Chilliwack FC head coach Glenn Wilson. “Some people ask how it will affect our club. I don’t see it affecting much more than say one per cent of all our players, so it won’t have a major impact on our club as a whole. More players from CFC playing at that level gives our club more credibility because it says we are developing players to a high standard.”
MFFC needed support from CFC and the Aldergrove soccer association to move ahead with their bid— they needed to show B.C. Soccer that the regional associations were on board.
CFC was quick to give the green light, giving a verbal go-ahead to MFFC.
“Chilliwack would have loved to bid on a franchise, but geographically we’re just a little too far out from places like Langley and Aldergrove,” he said. “It would be difficult to convince players to come out here to train and play when we’re so far away. Geographically, Abbotsford is right in the middle of it all and they’ve got the infrastructure.”
The major innovation with the Premier League is that players are allowed to move outside of district boundaries to play on the elite circuit.
By limiting the number of franchises to eight, B.C.’s top soccer talent is more concentrated.
Nicholl felt Magnuson Ford FC’s bid was well-received in light of the association’s history as a soccer trailblazer.
Abbotsford was the first club in B.C. to hire a full-time paid head coach (current Vancouver Whitecaps assistant coach Colin Miller and now ex-CFC head coach Ian Knight), and was the first to host a USL Super Y-League youth program.
The local association’s bid got a boost late in the game when Langley FC, an all-girls association, signed on as an official partner.
The girls’ side of the Magnuson Ford Premier League franchise will be hosted by Langley.
“Our bid had to go in on Jan. 31, which was a Monday, and they came on board on Jan. 29 at 4:30 in the afternoon,” said Nicholl, adding that the Langley club had initially been leaning towards aligning itself with Surrey United.
MFFC will run one final season of Super Y-League youth soccer this summer, and the PL will play an exhibition schedule this fall. The new circuit will be fully on-stream in 2012, with a March-to-November season.
Wilson expects little to no impact on the spring soccer side, with CFC running a less formal, recreational format from April to June.
CFC’s new summer tournament program might be affected if players opt to go the PL route.
CFC’s Pacific Coast Soccer League squads could feel the biggest pinch, with a season that runs almost lock-step with the PL schedule.
Chilliwack fields teams in the U-21 men’s and women’s divisions, and could concievably lose to talent to the new league.
“As far as numbers, it will affect all the PCSL teams to some degree,” Wilson acknowledged. “How big an affect, I don’t really know. From our point of view, I don’t think it will be huge, but in other areas it will. It will make it interesting for next year.”
CFC will look to continue fielding teams in the metro league, with Wilson hoping to enter four teams at that level this fall.
“The top third of the metro league has now moved up to the PL, so the standard may not be what it’s been in the past, but it’s still a high calibre of soccer,” he said. “Our goal is for players who don’t go to HL, we can still develop them to their potential. We can offer them opportunities to train and play at a high level, travel and enjoy their youth soccer lives.”
CFC’s spring soccer league starts soon. Get more information at the CFC website, found online at www.chilliwackfc.com.