It’s anybody’s game: VISL teams set for run at the cup

FIFA seeds the draw pots for World Cup play. But in club knockout cup soccer world-wide, it’s still pretty much the whims of fate that decides matchups. It’s the very randomness of the draw that makes club soccer cup competitions so compelling, including in the Vancouver Island Soccer League for the Jackson Cup, leading to giant-killing moments from underdogs that have become ingrained in the lore of leagues.

“The random draw goes against what some people might like, but others love,” said VISL executive director Vince Greco.

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“It was certainly a topic of conversation during the draw [held Monday night], with a lot of interesting matchups. Not many people can predict which way this is going to go.”

The defending champion is Gorge FC, which last year edged Lakehill 3-2 in the 103rd Jackson Cup final, to win the club’s first cup championship since Gorge’s run of six consecutive titles ended in 2010. Lakehill was denied its first-ever Jackson Cup championship.

“Not too many trophies have been around 100-plus years,” said Greco.

“People look at that and say: ‘Wow.’ The Jackson Cup is bigger than just . . . this year’s competition. It has such a history and is a huge deal in our soccer community.”

So much so that past Jackson Cup playdowns have included World Cup players George Pakos, Jamie Lowery, Ian Bridge and other multi-capped Canadian national team players such as Bob Bolitho, Ike MacKay and Brian Robinson.

“This history is well known and it’s nice to see current young Island players having a real respect for the Jackson Cup,” said Greco.

The 2019 Jackson Cup draw led to some interesting brackets. For instance, No. 5 Nanaimo from the VISL Div. 1 was drawn into the play-in round Feb. 15-17 against visiting No. 15 Saanich Fusion of Div. 2. The winner of that contest will host top-ranked Lakehill in the first round Feb. 22-24, setting up a possible early top-five matchup between Nanaimo and Lakehill.

“Who knows who one or five will be by Feb. 22 because we have a very tight Div. 1 league this season,” said Greco.

Another Div. 1 team drawn into the play-in round is No. 7 Vic West, which will play at No. 12 Highlanders of Div. 2.

“That could be a very interesting game because of the young legs and speed of the Pacific Institute [Highlanders] kids,” said Greco.

The Vic West versus Highlanders winner advances to host No. 3 and annual power Cowichan FC in the first round.

The No. 9-seed Fernwood squad from Div. 1 hosts No. 18 Nanaimo of Div. 2 in a play-in fixture with the winner advancing to host No. 4 Westcastle United of Div. 1.

The other play-in game is an all-Div. 2 matchup between No. 17 Gorge FC and No. 20 and lowest-seed Bays United. It’s a soft bracket with the winner of that game advancing to host No. 14 Lakehill of Div. 2. That’s putting the random in draw.

It guarantees two all-Div. 2 matchups in the first round with No. 11 Powell River hosting No. 13 Juan de Fuca in an opening-round matchup.

The other straight first-round matchups include No. 8 Gorge FC of Div. 1 hosting No. 16 Prospect Lake of Div. 2, No. 6 Bays United of Div. 1 visiting No. 19 Vic West of Div. 2 and an all Div. 1 affair with the No. 2 Mid Island Mariners visiting No. 10 Comox Valley.

The quarter-final round is scheduled for March 8-10, semifinals March 15-17 and the 104th Jackson Cup championship game 2:30 p.m. on March 31 at Royal Athletic Park.

The VISL draws were also made for the George Pearkes Challenge Cup for Divisions 3 A-B, Tony Grover Masters Cup, George Smith U-21 Cup and JV Barnes Division 4 Cup.

VISL NOTES: The VISL select team defeated the Fraser Valley Soccer League selects 3-0 last weekend at Port Moody in their annual fixture. Adam Ravenhill of Bays United, Blair Sturrock of Lakehill and Nicholas Budisa of Vic West scored the goals with Nolan Wirth of Vic West and Geoff Hackett of Nanaimo sharing the clean sheet in the crease. Centre-back Ryan Ashlee from Bays United was named game MVP.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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