Is League1 BC Starting This Year?
It’s been one-and-a-half years since BC Soccer announced its full intentions to launch a semi-professional league entitled League1 BC, though things have remained quiet since. With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the world last year, however, the governing body has kept very quiet regarding this project.
This week, council notes from North Vancouver may have inadvertently leaked that what we know as League1 BC – which is tentatively titled “BC League 1” – is planning to launch as soon as this summer.
In this week’s recorded agenda for the North Vancouver City Council, there was discussion regarding an application for a potential BC League 1 team which was requesting to use a local field as its home ground. The request included a letter from the club and an explanation of the new league, revealing some exciting details for fans eager to see the continued growth of the domestic game.
The prospective BC League 1 side, Altitude FC, is being put together by Faly Academy and a group of local investors. The group intends to launch both men’s and women’s teams to be assembled in time for a season set to take place this year, with the club stating that it would play against both semi-professional and professional teams in the province.
The Altitude FC application was submitted by local businessman Paul Riches and Faly Academy coach Lukas Strauts, who previously plied his trade in Germany, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The Altitude FC council application makes note that the club’s League1 BC matches will take place from May to July on weekends, though the letter penned by the club states that government restrictions due to COVID-19 could impact the inaugural season timeline.
Explanatory images attached to the application are consistent with previously defined league rules, including a minimum of six U-23 players on the field at once, a maximum of six players on a professional contract, a $5,000 maximum salary for each professional, and only three internationals on the club’s roster.
While the above slide and an advisory report from the North Vancouver Parks and Recreation department indicate that six teams will be participating in this year’s as-yet-undisclosed inaugural season, an attached communication from Paul Riches states that the inaugural BC League 1 season will feature eight teams:
The Faly Academy is very proud to announce that in conjunction with other third party interests, our application for a club franchise and to have teams represented within this league has been accepted and approved by BC Soccer; one of just eight expected clubs for the first initial season here in BC.Paul Riches
The attached report from the North Vancouver Parks and Recreation evaluating the request to use the local field has some slightly contradictory information, stating that the inaugural BC League 1 season will run from April to August as opposed to May to July, with that letter also noting that the season will have fourteen regular season matches plus playoffs.
The application states that BC League 1 aims to replicate the structure of League1 Ontario, which will see four new expansion teams participate in the upcoming season, with the possibility of one or two new additional expansion teams in or around Barrie.
The prospective league will sit below the Canadian Premier League, Canada’s top flight domestic league, which currently hosts eight professional clubs from coast-to-coast. The league recently announced that it will be aiming to start its third season on the Victoria Day long weekend.
In 2019, the BC Soccer Association announced that a big push for this league was due to Canada Soccer’s advisement that FIFA was trying to move its confederations away from cross-border competition, even before the COVID-19 pandemic made this feat much more difficult. This suggests that the prospective league could see the arrival of Burnaby-based USL League Two team TSS Rovers, with another big possibility being the arrival of Victoria Highlanders from the Pacific Coast Soccer League.
The three biggest Canadian sides – CF Montreal, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps – ply their trade in Major League Soccer, which is a US league. These clubs are not expected to have any cross-border sanctioning issues, though former USL Championship side Ottawa Fury ultimately folded in 2019 after sanctioning difficulties.
That being said, the Whitecaps announced that the Major League Soccer side would be interested in having an affiliate League1 BC side which could allow its young academy players to develop at a high level.
The addition of a semi-professional league in British Columbia would also bring further opportunity to expand the Canadian Championship, which annually features the league champions from semi-professional provincial leagues League1 Ontario and the PLSQ.
While it’s not immediately clear what the final number of inaugural BC League 1 clubs will be, it appears that British Columbia is nearly ready to announce its inaugural season barring any unexpected difficulties. This marks a big step for domestic football, and means another big pathway to domestic professional opportunities out west is on the horizon.