The relationship between Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Harbour City FC officially went to the next level on Thursday.
The Whitecaps announced at a press conference at Port Theatre in Nanaimo that the Harbour City FC will serve as a base for the Whitecaps' new Island academy.
The two clubs have been working together since early this year, but this move will position the HCFC as the hub for the Whitecaps development program on the Island.
HCFC technical director Claude Bolton takes on the additional role of Whitecaps Island regional head coach.
Whitecaps director of soccer development, Dan Lenar-duzzi, said this partnership is a crucial step forward for the MLS club and for the sport's future.
"This makes us more structured in working with players on the Island," he said. "Previously we could just scout a player and then invite them into our program. Now, we have an opportunity to work with them on a regular basis.
"The only way we're going to get better is to get kids at an early age and work with them longer."
The academy will officially launch in January with an abbreviated schedule of programs that will run through August. Programs include a skills academy for boys and girls for the under-nine and under-12 age groups and a goaltending academy. From March through June they will operate a prospects academy that will include training in Vancouver with the Whitecaps.
The academy will also run camps through the spring and summer with additional programming from September.
The Whitecaps already have academies in the Okanagan and the Kootenays.
"There's lots of programs in Victoria through the Highlanders and the B.C. Soccer Premiere League team," Lenarduzzi said. "Our focus is to develop the upper Island players."
The HCFC is the largest soccer club on Vancouver Island with 1,600 players.
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