Champions from the Washington Youth Soccer Regional Club League (RCL) and B.C. Soccer Premier League (BCSPL) met at Woodinville Sports Park in Woodinville, Wash. Dec. 14-15 to compete for the first League Champions Cup, the latest soccer exchange program between Washington and B.C. Champions in the Under-13 through Under-16 Boys and Girls age groups played head-to-head, and the league with the most aggregate victories would claim the trophy and bragging rights for the year.
Teams from the BCSPL prevailed, winning six of the eight games versus RCL opponents to claim the trophy. The first edition of the Cup presented some obstacles, such as B.C. Soccer’s birth year age groups against Washington Youth Soccer’s school year, giving the B.C. teams a seven month advantage in age. However, the spirit of the competition was evident as the participants enjoyed new opponents from across the border and a unique challenge.
One of the more anticipated matchups saw U16 Boys Seattle United Copa 97 take on the defending Canadian National Champions, Surrey United SC. Seattle United jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first half, but Surrey showed their strength, coming back to claim a 4-1 victory. Seattle United Coach Teddy Mitalas was excited not only about the renewed competition with B.C. teams, but the challenge in facing the Canadian champion.
“We played the National Champs from Canada! I know their group and knew this would be a tough game for us, but I think this is awesome! I think this is one of the best things Washington Youth Soccer could do,” explained Mitalas. “It’s just nice for the teams to be able to play teams they don’t usually play, and Washington Youth Soccer set it up. We had this when I played, the same thing. So, I really think this is an awesome thing. Granted, we got lucky and won the RCL this year, but somebody else could be here too. So, I think this is great and I want to keep this going.”
The Canadian Exchange Series dates back to the 1950s when Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. youth soccer teams began a home-and-away series each year to promote soccer in both areas. The series thrived throughout the 1970s, peaking with approximately 2,000 teams applying to participate each year. The exchange faded over time, but last year representatives from the RCL and BCSPL, the top youth leagues in their respective areas, came together to reestablish an annual competition between the champions of each league.
“(The clubs) were the ones that have really been pushing this for two years now, so between Washington Youth Soccer and myself with the B.C. Soccer Premier League, we stepped up and decided it was something both leagues needed to do to gain another foothold and another advantage to our leagues,” said B.C. Soccer Premier League General Manager Matt Holbrook. “I think it’s been great.”
The competition proved tough for Washington teams, especially considering the age advantage for the B.C. teams, but coaches and players alike acknowledged the developmental opportunity and excitement of playing teams they hadn’t faced before.
Washington’s two victories both came from Crossfire Premier girls teams and both in penalty kick shootouts. The other two Washington girls’ sides fell by just a goal each, while the boys’ found a tougher time with the age and size difference between the teams.
Both Washington Youth Soccer and B.C. Soccer plan to organize the event annually, and expect the competition to evolve moving forward.
“I think it’s been great. I think the comments I’ve heard back have been very supportive of the concept,” exclaimed Holbrook. “We kind of expected a few wrinkles to work out here and there in the first year, and obviously the age groups have been a concern for a few people, but I think overall it’s been great. It’s a great first step.”
For game results, visit the League Champions Cup homepage, here.