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17-year-old B.C. soccer phenom signs pro contract with Vancouver Whitecaps

Comox’s Liam Mackenzie to continue his development in the MLS NEXT Pro league with the Whitecaps FC2

Midfielder Liam Mackenzie has taken the next step toward a soccer career - a huge step.

On Monday, April 8, the Vancouver Whitecaps announced the signing of the 17-year-old Comox soccer phenom to a professional contract.

The deal is an MLS NEXT Pro professional contract, running through the 2026 season.

MLS NEXT Pro is the development league for the Whitecaps. Mackenzie will continue his development by playing for Vancouver Whitecaps FC2.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know all my hard work since I was a kid is paying off,” said Mackenzie, in an exclusive interview with Black Press. “This is the first step towards my goals and I am so happy and grateful.”

“This is one of the younger (signings) for us of the past couple of years,” said Quinn Thompson, Whitecaps FC senior director of player personnel.

“We had (Liam’s) contract until the end of his U19 year, so there was (no timeline pressure). But it’s not our mandate to sign older players or younger players - it’s really about the individual players that we deal with in the club, and when they are ready to take the next step. That could be when they are 17, when they are 18, or when they are 19. We talk with the player, we talk with their parents, we talk with their agents. It’s really about the more holistic approach, to figure when is the right time for the player to take the next step.”

Mackenzie has been under the Whitecaps’ umbrella since August 2020, when he joined the Whitecaps FC Pre-Academy. He attends school in Vancouver and is away from home for 10 months of the year.

“I moved away from home when I was 13 and ever since then I have been living away from (my parents) for 10 of the 12 months,” he said.“I am really grateful to my family. They have been so supportive. Obviously it wasn’t easy. There were challenges that came with it because I was so young, but I pushed through it.

“I am so grateful to my parents and my friends and family and everyone who has helped me along the way.”

He said the team keeps an eye on his schooling to ensure he maintains good grades.

“The Whitecaps value education very highly,” Mackenzie said. “Since I am still in Grade 11… they (track) my grades and make sure I am keeping up with it, making sure that I graduate with good marks, because education translates to the field. It’s going well. I am taking a lot of online classes because of the travel.”

Thompson has been following Mackenzie’s progress for nearly two years.

“We have been monitoring his progression, particularly in the last year and a half, as he advanced into higher competition, in the U17 age group,” said Thompson. “That’s kind of the first level where they really start to make a push to get onto the second team. Liam was on the bench last year and did well, so we think it’s the right step for him at this point.

“I didn’t see him a lot as a U15 player but since I have been getting to know him over the last little bit here, his development as a person has been really impressive. Coming across from the Island is not an easy thing for a young man to do, and he has been able to come over and continue to perform on the scale, continue to develop well. Those are the characteristics we look for in a player, because the business of football is not easy. You have to go through hardships, and he has really managed that situation very well.”

“The most challenging part is just every day, having to put your head down and put in the work… every single day you have to show up at the facility and give 100 per cent no matter how you are feeling,” Mackenzie said. “It’s a process, but in order to be the best you can, you have to show up every day.”

As an MLS NEXT Pro player, Mackenzie can be called up and put on the MLS Whitecaps’ roster as many as four times in a single season, but can only play in a maximum of two MLS matches through any season.

Mackenzie has already seen time on the field this season with the Whitecaps FC2. Thompson said there is no specific timeline set for Mackenzie to be named a starter.

“It’s all about how he is doing,” said Thompson. “We want him to put in the work but we want to be there as well, to help him take the next steps to be a day-in, day-out starter at that level, because you have to take that step before you get to the MLS.

“So who knows? It might take a little while, or he might, in a couple of weeks, be starting every single game. It’s really dependent on how Liam is doing, and how he takes advantage of the opportunities we provide for him.”

Mackenzie has his sights set on becoming a starter for the FC2 squad sooner, rather than later.

“That is my main goal,” he said. “Even though I am one of the youngest players I always like to think of myself as one of the best and I think I can be a starter on this team,” he said. “I just have to keep working and show my strengths.”

While Mackenzie did not get into the details of the contract, he did say this is not one of those “buy your parents a new house” contracts.

“That will be the next one,” he said with a laugh.

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 24 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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