Calgary will soon be home to a new high-calibre soccer team set to include Dinos players, coaches and alumni.
The new Calgary Foothills Soccer Club Under-23 (CFSC) is touted as the first step towards a new professional soccer team in Calgary. The CFSC will play a series of exhibition games this summer before joining the Professional Development League for the 2015 season.
The PDL is a top-tier development league for U23 players in North America. The league has more than 60 teams competing in four conferences and nine regional divisions in the United States and Canada. While still amateur, the PDL is the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid, behind Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and the USL-PRO.
Many professional teams in the United States and Canada play their reserve and youth squads in the PDL. The CFSC will play against teams from Vancouver, Portland and Seattle in the northwest division. The CFSC is the ninth Canadian team in the PDL.
“The level of competition for them in the summer would be immense,” said Brian McDonnell, head coach of the Dinos men’s soccer team and an assistant coach with the CFSC.
The exhibition games will feature current and past Dinos players McDonnell has coached. He said he hopes that the relationship between the CFSC and the Dinos will continue once the team joins the PDL.
The PDL is an ameateur league, meaning university players can maintain their scholarships during the varsity season. The National Collegiate Athletic Association and Canadian Interuniversity Sport both disallow players from signing professional contracts, though they can still play against the pros.
The CFSC penned a 2–2 draw during their first exhibition game against the FC Edmonton reserves. The CFSC had five current Dinos players on their roster, and despite the poor weather, more than 650 fans lined the stands.
According to McDonnell, a solid fan base and high travel costs make a professional team in Calgary difficult. Past attempts at professional soccer, including the Calgary Storm and the Calgary Mustangs, failed due to poor attendance at games.
“To make these things work you need five or six thousand fans coming out per game,” McDonnell said. “Foothills is a big local club that is going to use their grassroots players
and families as the initial fan base before hopefully expanding to the rest of Calgary.”
Dinos midfielder James Gourlay will play a key role for the CFSC this summer. In his first season with the Dinos last year, Gourlay was named to the second team all-conference in Canada West. He says the new franchise will offer him an opportunity test himself as a player.
“I’m looking forward to improving my game and playing against such great players,” Gourlay said. “In the CIS, players rely heavily on their physical aspects. In the PDL there is a stronger emphasis on keeping the ball and playing technically.”