Kelowna’s soccer scene is about to make a resurgence.
After its inaugural year in Kelowna’s Men’s League, the Okanagan Football Club is almost set to bring an even more competitive level of soccer back to Kelowna competing in the Pacific Coast Soccer League in 2019.
The PCSL is a competitive eight-team inter-city league that will allow Kelowna’s best players to continue playing local and competitive soccer past 18 and 19 years old.
It’s about competitiveness but also about creating a culture, said Okanagan FC coach Andrew Stevenson.
“We want to provide an avenue for our young players to play a senior level, and to continue to play towards their soccer aspirations,” said Stevenson. “Kelowna and the Okanagan have been missing a competitive team for a long time, and we want to build a successful team that engages the soccer community, and build something special.”
Despite the local recreation leagues in Kelowna, or the possibility of university soccer, Stevenson notes that it’s tough for players passing the age of 18 to find competitive leagues in the Okanagan.
The PCSL is exactly that— a competitive league where players who may not have anywhere to go can play through some of their adult years, playing teams in cities like Kamloops, Vancouver, and Victoria.
Okanagan FC will join the PCSL when the season starts in early May, and invites players off all ages to the upcoming try-outs in early March.
“The feedback has been very well received. I think that Kelowna has a hot-bed of soccer talent, and we want to bring in the best,” said Stevenson.
“We’re expecting around 70 players at the upcoming try-outs, ranging in ages from 17 to 40.”
When the season starts, the Kelowna Rockets’ season will have ended, and the Okanagan Sun’s season will be months away still.
Stevenson and the Okanagan FC want to fill that perfect time in summer to provide a quality level of soccer for players, and for fans.
Stevenson notes that there has been some difficulties with starting a new soccer club among the established Kelowna sporting favourites.
“Getting the name out there has been hard, and finding volunteers,” said Stevenson, who remains unfazed by these challenges.
“With any new program, there are going to be speed-bumps. We want to get people excited and we want to create an atmosphere, and events to people can get excited for.”
The atmosphere for the Okanagan FC’s upcoming season will be hosted at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl, where the last Kelowna team to play in the PCSL, the Okanagan Challenge, used to draw in around 1,000 fans for games before the team’s end in 2011.
With a sponsorship with Sleeman’s to provide beverages at the games, local DJ artists, and community events on game days, Okanagan FC strives to be the go-to place during the summer with $10 tickets for adults, and kids under 18 getting free admission.
“At the Apple Bowl, with great music and beer available, it’s going to cost less than a movie, and less than a hockey or football game for fans and families,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson feels the excitement level continues to build as families already involved with the club are excited with the opportunities Okanagan FC will provide down the line for the younger players looking to play local soccer after youth programs.
Okanagan FC will also assemble a women’s team to compete in the PCSL women’s league in 2020.
Providing a competitive league for Okanagan players is the first step for Okanagan FC, and make no mistake—they’re looking to win, Stevenson said.
“We’re looking to get our hands on the trophy. The top players are going to have to earn their spots, and we want to build a team without any obstacles and make it accessible as possible for all prospective players,” he said.
“Guys will have to commit to the team and vision to help this team come together.”
Players looking for more information can find it at okanaganfc.com.
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