Sports

Premier soccer league to include Peninsula teams

B.C. Soccer announced last week the eight founding franchises in its new premier league – with the Semiahmoo Peninsula earning one of the inaugural berths.

The South Fraser Soccer Club, which will incorporate both Semiahmoo (girls) and Peace Arch (boys) clubs, will join five other Lower Mainland teams, as well as one each from Vancouver Island and the Okanagan in the new circuit, to be called the B.C. Premier Soccer League.

“It’s a great thing for players in South Surrey and White Rock,” said Semiahmoo Soccer president Darryl Jones.

The league will feature boys and girls teams from U13 to U18, and will aim to combine the province’s top players in one league, as the current Selects and Metro programs do now.

“Basically, in B.C. the feeling has been for some time now that the Metro and Selects leagues have been a bit of a watered-down product,” said Mark McQueen, head coach of Semiahmoo Soccer.

“Many associations had a Metro or Selects team, but it was really just in name only – the calibre wasn’t quite there. Now, this new premier league should fix that, because it reduces the teams down to eight.”

Other teams in the new league include Abbotsford, Burnaby/North Shore, Coquitlam Metro, Vancouver Island, Surrey United, Vancouver/Richmond and Thompson Okanagan.

While the new premier teams will take players who currently play at the Metro and Selects levels, the remaining players will filter down into the gold division in what will essentially be a merging of the gold/metro divisions.

“I’d imagine that at some point, one of the tiers will disappear, but those are things that are still being worked out,” said McQueen.

With both boys and girls playing under the new South Fraser banner, the new program is also a step toward merging the Peace Arch and Semiahmoo clubs, which has been in the works for a number of years.

But more importantly, the new premier league gives the area’s high-end players the chance to play closer to home, rather than having to switch associations in order to play on elite squads.

“It allows players who are of a special calibre to stay in their own community,” said McQueen. “And I think with this level of competition, you’ll see some future Canadian national team members playing on fields in South Surrey.”

The new league will run a pilot season this fall, and then will kick off the inaugural season in the spring of 2012. And while South Fraser will be a spring-soccer club, both Semi and Peace Arch clubs will continue to play a fall/winter season.

While there are likely not enough elite level players to fully fill out rosters of the new teams, Jones said they’ve formed “regional partnerships” with other local programs, include Delta, SurDel and Tswwassen. Not only will those clubs provide players, but also more fields on which to practice and play.

“What we’re trying to do with this new premier league is step the club up to the point that we’re more than just a recreational league – we want to get it to a level of sophistication where we’re moving players through to the next level,” said Jones.

As a point of reference, Jones pointed to the Peninsula softball scene, where the White Rock Renegades program is among the country’s best – and routinely sees players advance to the university and national level – and the White Rock/South Surrey Thunder are for more recreational players.

“We’d like to get to that level, and we’re really excited about it.”

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