There is a new top dog when it comes to soccer in B.C.
The B.C. Soccer Association approved a new eight-team High Performance League at a special general meeting on Saturday.
It will replace metro (girls) and selects (boys) as the highest tier of soccer.
The new league, which will run a trial season this spring, will have eight teams: six in the Lower Mainland and one each on Vancouver Island and the Interior.
“The spirit of intent here is about creating the best possible conditions for player development,” said Steve Allen, a director with the B.C. Soccer Association, who chaired the HPL committee. “While our committee has been focused on developing the HPL platform for the top boys and girls players in the province, it isn’t lost on any of us that this new tier of play will also help improve the game for players at all levels.”
Under the new league, players are not restricted by geographical boundaries, meaning they can choose to try out for any club.
“The whole idea is to build regional partnerships so that we are exchanging information, players are moving freely to programs that make sense for their ability, not their geography,” Allen said. “Just because you live in Langley does not mean you can’t go to a program in Cloverdale, if that is where your skill level demands that you go.
“So there is free flow movement in this program at the highest level.”
Eleven groups have expressed interest in joining and full proposals are due by Monday (Jan. 31). The successful applicants are expected to be announced in mid-Febuary and the league will run a trial season this year with full kick-off in 2012. The teams will play a 21-game schedule from March to November.
The organizations will need to remain competitive and properly run or they risk being replaced by another club.
The Langley United Youth Soccer Association hopes to apply for entrance into the HPL in a year or two, in order to allow the top local players to remain close to home.
“The board feels we have a responsibility to both male and female players within our community to be able to offer to them the opportunity of playing at the highest level available and why not make them available to them within our own community,” said LUYSA president Betty Boucas.
“This is an important step forward to securing Langley United’s and Langley’s future in B.C. soccer and in serving the girls and boys of Langley with the highest-quality soccer programs.”
To apply for an HPL team, a club needs both boys and girls teams, or to partner with another club to fulfill that requirement.
“We could have pushed it forward so fast and made an application for right now, but quite frankly, there are a lot of hoops to jump through and to get everybody on board,” said Dave Kasper, LUYSA’s vice-president.
“We thought it more prudent to think it through, take some steps to get as many people on board as we can and do it properly in 18 months.”
He did say that the club has held discussions with other nearby associations and those talks are ongoing.