With recent wins in their opening qualifying matches against St. Lucia and Puerto Rico, people are asking, “Will the Canadian national men’s soccer team qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?” Not likely.
While the team looked good in those matches, it is currently ranked only 102nd in the world and is not expected to advance past the next round of qualifying, notes Comox Valley United Soccer Club president Matthew Blecha.
“Soccer Canada has long been criticized for the team’s poor performances over the years,” Blecha said. “Recently, however, huge steps have been taken to make the Canadian men’s team more competitive.” In B.C., this month has seen the launching of a new multi-tiered league system designed to render the development of talent in B.C. more effective. The intent of this new system is to “deliver a clear pathway for players to compete on the national and international stages,” said Blecha.
Earlier this month, BC Soccer kicked off the EA Sports BC Soccer Premier League, otherwise known as the
High Performance League (HPL) or Tier 1. This league is comprised of eight teams in every age group, from U13 to U18 for both boys and girls. This league has only one Island-based team in Victoria with the other seven based on the mainland. At last count, the CVUSC has seven players or reserves in the HPL.
Feeding into this league is the new Vancouver Island Premier League (VIPL), also known as Tier 2. Blecha said this second tier is the result of a collaboration of the Lower and Upper Island Soccer Associations to provide skilled players an opportunity to represent their regions, whilst providing them with a more diverse
and competitive pool of teams to play against. Tier 3 is the equivalent of select soccer at the club level with select teams playing against other select teams from other clubs.
Blecha said the whole idea of this restructuring is to situate kids in leagues with other kids of comparable talent to optimize their development. “Before too long, our national teams will be looking to the HPL upon which to draw their players. If the plan works as expected, the men’s team will finally become respectable,” Blecha said.
No restructuring however comes without difficulties. Former Tier 3 teams within the CVUSC have had to dissolve to form the Tier 2 teams. Bonds between teammates have had to give way to the formation of this new structure. “Over time however, as soccer here in the Comox Valley continues to grow, so too will our club’s ability to field increased numbers of talented players to fill up the rosters of the teams in these various tiers,” Blecha said.
Meanwhile, soccer continues to be very popular in the Comox Valley. The CVUSC has over 700 kids registered for Fall House soccer alone. Despite the recent rescinding of support from Courtenay council for a turf field referendum that would have been held this fall, support for the project continues to grow, Blecha said.
This support is coming from not only within the soccer community but from other sports including field hockey and field lacrosse. In addition, businesses and individuals have made significant financial contributions to help move the project forward.
“The soccer club is continuing to gear towards a spring referendum, as was hinted upon by Courtenay Mayor Phelps,” Blecha said. Fundraising is continuing at full-steam with a semi-formal fundraiser gala set for this Saturday, Sept. 24. This event is expected to help the club surpass the $400,000 fundraising mark. The event will feature former Canadian soccer star Richard Hastings as guest speaker. Tickets for the event are still available and can be purchased by calling Mark Purcell at 250-702-7282.