A new league, with an emphasis on player development and increased exposure for players, will be available to aspiring young soccer talent in the valley beginning in 2012.
The B.C. Soccer Premier League will feature eight regional teams, including the Thompson Okanagan Football Club.
Each of the founding clubs will field both boys and girls teams in the U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16 and U-17/18 divisions.
Thompson Okanagan teams will compete for one more season in the Super Y League—until the end of July 2011—before officially becoming members of the B.C. Soccer Premier League next spring.
“Up until now, it’s been a bit muddy as to where the best players in our province should go and play, where they would best develop,” said Mark Krehel, managing
director of Thompson Okanagan FC and president of Kelowna United.
“This is a streamlining of the way things have been done in the past. The format will give the provincial team programs and the universities obvious venues to watch and evaluate our players, and it will give our players a higher profile. Having all the best players in the same league within B.C. makes sense for their development.”
The seven other teams will be based in Abbotsford, Burnaby/North Shore, Coquitlam, Vancouver Island, South Fraser, Surrey, and Vancouver/Richmond.
The concept for the new league was a joint effort between B.C. Soccer and the High Performance League committee, a 16-member group from the club, district and league levels in B.C.
The teams will play a 21-game regular season from March until October.
With just one game to play per weekend per team, Krehel said the players have a chance to develop at a more methodical rate than in the past.
“This way the kids get their proper rest and they’re not burned out by the end of each weekend from playing twice in two days,” he said. “The longer playing season should be a benefit to them.”
In the past, the winners of the Provincial A Cup tournaments have represented B.C. at the national championships.
Beginning in 2012, the B.C. Soccer Premier League champs will attend nationals instead.
The new format and league also allows B.C. Soccer to operate on the same platform as other Canadian provinces.
“We’re aligning ourselves with the rest of the country,” said Krehel. “We’re the only ones in Canada who choose our provincial champions in June and July. We then have to wait until October for nationals, so this arrangement will eliminate that.”
Thompson Okanagan FC will consist of five regional bodies—Kelowna, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Kamloops and Penticton—who will all work together under the same banner.
Krehel said there is also no jurisdiction on player content, meaning athletes from as far away as Prince George, Nakusp and the Kootenays could conceivably end up playing for TOFC.
As far as the Kelowna United programs are concerned, Krehel said nothing will change from last season as local select teams will continue play in the Thompson Okanagan Youth Soccer League, with the goal of competing for B.C. Soccer’s Provincial B Cup.